The admission of guilt may have come a little late in the day, yet it’s worth taking note of. For 18 long years after the cheetah was officially declared extinct in the country, Madhya Pradesh continued to issue notifications allowing its hunting.
All because the fastest land animal was known in common parlance as the panther, and the gazetteers carried the confusion to the record books.
The embarrassing revelation was made in the Assembly by the government, which admitted that limited hunting of the cheetah was officially allowed in MP till 1970.
The last cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in India was killed in 1947 and it was officially declared extinct in 1952.
Forest Minister Sartaj Singh told the Assembly in a written reply that the cheetah in the gazettes was actually the panther (Panthera pardus). The panther, the cheetah and the Hindi term “tendua” were used as synonyms. He claimed the then officials were aware that the carnivore had been declared extinct.
The question was asked by BJP MLA Premnarayan Thakur, who wanted to know what steps, if any, the government had taken to arrest the decline in numbers.
He was told that “over hunting” and lack of prey base coupled with growth of agriculture in its habitat were the reasons behind the animal getting extinct.
Fittingly enough, two sites in MP, the Kuno-Palpur and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries, have been chosen for re-introduction of the animal. The third possible site is the Shahgarh landscape in neighbouring Rajasthan.