Conservation programs that take into consideration the well-being and interests of the people that live with the big cats have the most chance of succeeding. In the past, there has been a conservation versus them approach and people were even removed from their homes as protected areas were off limits to local people. Projects that work with local people and give them an incentive to save the big cats have a much better chance of success. Here are three big cat conservation projects that help humans too.
Sophisticated Tracking Collars Show Surprising Results
Cheetahs might be the fastest land animal but a new study reveals it isn’t speed but extreme agility and maneuverability that’s key to bringing down their prey. A team from the Royal Veterinary College, UK, working with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, used custom-built tracking collars containing GPS and inertial measurement units to capture the locomotor dynamics of cheetahs hunting in the wild.
In the 1960’s cheetahs were clocked reaching speeds of 64 miles per hour, but research using modern technology shows the cheetah’s speed at 40 mph. These studies were carried out with captive cheetahs and could give little insight into how a cheetah uses their speed in the wild. So researchers collared five wild cheetahs and tracked their movement. These sophisticated collars are capable of of monitoring speed, acceleration, deceleration and location. Data was collected for 367 runs over 17 months.
Cheetahs Rely on Agility and Maneuverability
December 4 is International Cheetah Day
Khayam was the inspiration for today.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has declared December 4 to be International Cheetah Day. The cheetah is not just the fastest, but the oldest of the big cats having survived over 3 million years of glaciations and warming cycles, and even its own genetic bottleneck. But with habitat destruction and conflict with humans, the cheetah could become extinct in less than 20 years.
In 1977, Dr. Laurie Marker traveled to Namibia with a female cheetah named Khayam. Dr. Marker wanted to see if it was possible for a cheetah that had lived their entire life in captivity to be released into the wild. But when Dr. Marker and Khayam arrived in Namibia, she learned the cheetahs needs were quite different from what the wildlife community had assumed.
Cheetahs were considered vermin, pests that should be shot on sight. The Namibian farmers worried about their small livestock herds, thought of the cheetah as a threat to their own livelihood. Dr. Marker soon realized that if the cheetah was to survive in Namibia, a solution must be found to enable the farmers and the cheetah to live side-by-side, allowing both to thrive. Shortly after the assessment of the cheetahs’ needs, Dr. Marker also realized there was no group working to find a solution to help the farmers that would in turn save the cheetah.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund
This past summer we had the honor of being able to speak with Dr. Marker as part of our course work in Namibia. When we were sitting in a meeting room at CCF, talking with Dr. Marker she explained that she realized “There is no “they” and if you want something done you have to do it yourself.”