India Today



Afew months after India’s Independen­ce, Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo, the ruler of Koriya (a princely state that was under the Eastern States Agency and is now part of modernday Chhattisga­rh), saw three cheetahs while driving at night. They were all sitting huddled together, perhaps blinded and scared by the lights. As per an account of the hunt, sent by the ruler’s secretary to a popular taxidermis­t, Van Ingen, “The first bullet killed one and the second, the remaining two. The second bullet, after having gone through one, struck the other, which was behind it, and killed it.” The cheetahs were almost identical—all males— and were believed to be from the same litter. It wasn’t known whether the animals were born in Koriya or had migrated from elsewhere. In his 1923 book, Wild Animals in Central India, conservati­onist Dunbar Brander stated that the cheetah had almost disappeare­d from

the Central Provinces. In January 1948, Ingen requested the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to publish a record of this hunt. It was left to the editors to call out the act—and they did. “The editors were so nauseated by the account of this slaughter that their first impulse was to consign it to the wastepaper basket. Its publicatio­n here is intended in the nature of an impeachmen­t rather than any desire on their part to condone or extol the deed,” they stated in the published record. The journal castigated the ruler, challengin­g his claims of being a sportsman—like most Indian princes of that era—and also for being ignorant of the status of the cheetah in India. “...So wanton as to destroy such a rare and harmless animal when he [the ruler] has the phenomenal good fortune to run into not one but three together—probably the last remnants of a dying race,” wrote the editors. The lament was justified as the cheetah wasn’t seen again.

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