After 7 long decades of extinction, the roar of the cheetahs can once again be heard in India. A special cargo Boeing 747 chartered flight carrying 8 cheetahs from Namibia landed at the Indian Air Force Station in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh on Saturday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the cheetahs into Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park today on his 72nd birthday. The cheetahs, jaguars and leopards are often confused with one another, but the fact is all these big cays have their own distinctive features. While the cheetahs are the fastest, the Jaguars are the biggest. Leopards climb trees with ease. Let’s check out some fascinating differences between the three big cats. The other big cats include the tiger, lion, panther and cougar.
With the ability to go from zero to over 96 km (60 miles) an hour in only three seconds, the amazing cheetahs are the world’s fastest mammals on land. The adult cheetah can weigh between 34 kg to 56 kg, and the males are on the heavier side. The tawny (yellowish-brown or orange-brown colour) fur coat is covered with black round spots and each coat of one animal differs from the other. They also have bold black stripes that streak like tears from the inner corners of their eyes down to both sides of their mouths, and the ends of their bushy tails are encircled by black rings, mentions National Geographic. The cheetahs are the most endangered of the three cats. The Asiatic cheetahs were found in India but thanks to extensive hunting and loss of habitat, they were completely extinct in 1952 from India.
Among the three big cats – Jaguars, leopards and cheetahs – Jaguars are the largest. They are considered the third biggest cat in the world, after the tiger and the lion. Jaguars can weigh anywhere between 65 and 140 kg. But there have been smaller females and exceptionally large male jaguars too. The jaguar’s coat ranges from pale yellow to tan or reddish-yellow, with a whitish underside and covered in black spots. While like leopards, jaguars have rose-shaped spots on their body but in the case of the latter between both the cats, you will see a black dot between its rosettes. Jaguars have great swimming abilities and they are not found in India.
Leopards live in sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India, and China. But outside of Africa, these animals are largely endangered. Their specialized muscular bodies allow them to climb trees easily. As National Geographic points out, “Most leopards are light coloured with distinctive dark spots that are called rosettes, because they resemble the shape of a rose.” These cats have shorter legs relative to their long bodies and also have broad heads and big skulls. These wild cats, which spend a large part of their time on the trees, are the smallest members of the large cat category and can grow to a maximum size of six feet. The snow leopard is another distinct variety which is native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia.