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After 7 long decades of extinction, the roar of cheetahs can be heard again in India. A special cargo Boeing 747 with 8 cheetahs from Namibia landed at the Indian Air Station in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh on Saturday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release cheetahs in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park today on his 72nd birthday. Cheetahs, jaguars and leopards are often confused, but the fact is that all of these large cays have their own distinctive features. While Cheetahs are the fastest, Jaguars are the largest. Leopards climb trees easily. Let’s take a look at some fascinating differences between the three big cats. Other big cats include the tiger, lion, panther and puma.
With the ability to move from zero to more than 96 km (60 miles) per hour in just three seconds, the amazing cheetahs are the world’s fastest land mammals. An adult cheetah can weigh between 34kg to 56kg and males are on the heavier side. The tawny (yellow-brown or orange-brown) coat is covered with black round spots and each coat is different from one animal to another. They also have distinctive black stripes that run like tears from the inner corners of their eyes down either side of their mouths, and the ends of their bushy tails are surrounded by black rings, according to National Geographic. Cheetahs are the most endangered of the three cats. Asiatic cheetahs were found in India, but due to extensive hunting and habitat loss, they were completely extirpated from India in 1952.
Among the three big cats – jaguars, leopards and cheetahs – jaguars are the largest. They are considered the third largest cat in the world, after the tiger and the lion. Jaguars can weigh anywhere between 65 and 140 kg. But there were smaller females and exceptionally large jaguar males. The fur of the jaguar ranges from light yellow to tan or reddish-yellow, with a whitish underside and covered with black spots. While jaguars, like leopards, have rose-shaped spots on their bodies, but in the case of the latter, between the two cats, you will see a black dot between its rosettes. Jaguars have great swimming skills and are not found in India.
Leopards live in sub-Saharan Africa, northeastern Africa, Central Asia, India and China. But outside of Africa, these animals are largely endangered. Their specialized muscular body allows them to easily climb trees. As National Geographic points out, “Most leopards are pale with prominent dark spots called rosettes because they resemble the shape of a rose.” These cats have shorter legs in proportion to their long bodies and also have broad heads and large skulls. Spending much of their time in trees, these feral cats are the smallest of the big cats and can grow to a maximum size of six feet. The snow leopard is another distinct variety that originates from the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia.