Globally, the Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is considered to be vulnerable based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. Therefore, it is no exception that the Cheetah is one of the most endangered species of large predators within Africa. Cheetah populations are largely under pressure due to:
- Habitat Loss
- Conflict with farmers and their livestock practices
- Illegal trade through poaching
- Loss of prey due to poaching of “bush meat”
- Competition by large predators
During the early 2010s, very little was known about the cheetah population within the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (TPNR), we therefore conducted a series of studies on the cheetahs within the Reserve, which were designed to evaluate the:
- Abundance of cheetahs via a photographic survey
- Genetic variability of the population through the collection of faecal samples for subsequent DNA extraction and sequencing
- Home range requirements and spatial utilisation of cheetahs within the reserve
The research project occurred in joint-collaboration with the Ajubatus Foundation, the Cheetah Conservation Fund, the TPNR and South African National Parks (SANParks), with funding donated kindly by both John Dyer (Ajubatus Foundation) and Paul Levey (Makanyi Private Game Lodge).
More About This Study
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, cheetahs are classified as vulnerable, with an approximate 7,500 known adult cheetahs remaining. This suggests that the total population is not expected to surpass 10,000 adult individuals! The global population has therefore suffered a decrease of around 90% over the last 100 years, with Africa and Asia comprising of an estimated 100,000 cheetahs in the year 1900.
The majority of the remaining population is classified to be “free-roaming”, falling outside the boundaries of reserves and other protected areas. For this reason, the existing populations that are currently protected within nature reserves, as well as data relating to their status within those areas are crucial to the survival of the species in the long term.
As such, the Cheetah Demographic Study concept was born in the late 1990s and was operated over a 12-month period in 2010, following on into early 2011. Interestingly, it was found that the census (population size) was higher than expected and cheetahs were found over a diverse area. In particular, one male was found to travel across a vast area just north of Skukuza, all the way up to Olifants and West into the Timbavati Nature Reserve.
We hope to repeat this project every four to five years to coincide with the Kruger National Park (KNP) cheetah census, thereby providing further information and a broader understanding about the population dynamics within the Greater Kruger area.