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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

Pug Marks In Time

A superb book documents the history and demise of the cheetah

Pug Marks In Time
Pug Marks In Time
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
CHEETAH, the fastest four-footed animal on earth, and one with a long history in the subcontinent, has the dubious distinction of being the only large predator to have been exterminated in India. Till now, anyone wanting to know about it had to leaf through specialist journals or to turn to accounts of coursing antelopes with tame cheetahs from the Mughal and British times. No longer. Divyabhanusinh has produced an elegant and well-illustrated book that will be of enduring interest to anyone interested in ecology. In fact, The End of a Trail goes even further. It is an example of the kind of popular writing that is so rare. The research is meticulous, the prose lucid. Excellent reproductions of paintings and photographs make it a pleasure to read. Culture, ecology, history, art—the seams are woven together with seemingly effortless ease. The cheetah's existence in India is proven beyond doubt. In addition to Sanskrit sources like the Amarakosa, fossil remains and cave paintings point to its presence. Alone among the large carnivores, it has been trapped and used to hunt down antelopes and gazelles. Eight centuries of live-trapping left a strong tradition of cheetah capture and training that has never been recorded by researchers before. The practice reached its apogee under the Mughals, especially under Akbar and his son Jehangir, both of whom had a special interest in the animal. While the lion and tiger have long been more prominent as heraldic symbols and emblems of martial prowess, the cheetah occupied a different place in the perceptions of rulers.

The British period saw its gradual but steady decline, aided no doubt by the preference of cheetahs for open country where they prey on the blackbuck. More than direct hunting, and trapping of cheetahs for use in hunts, changes in the habitat and reduction of the prey base led to their extinction....

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