Ubuntu Wildlife Trust is very excited to share with you all a new project we will be supporting. We will be working with Cheetah Outreach Trust in their latest project to collect data on the movement, using a Satellite tracking collar, of a recently rescued and rehabilitated male cheetah.
Cheetah Outreach Trust
The Cheetah Outreach Trust is a non-profit conservation organisation dedicated to the protection of the free-ranging cheetah. The work of the Cheetah Outreach Trust is focused in four key areas: environmental education, reduction of wildlife-human conflict through applied and effective in situ (field-based) strategies, advocacy for the elimination of illegal trade using the South African Cheetah Studbook as a monitoring tool for legitimacy of animals traded and research. The Cheetah Outreach Trust has taken on the leading role for the conservation of the Southern African cheetah population that occurs outside of protected areas on farmlands in South Africa and is well recognised nationally and internationally both by support for the Trust and high-profile conservation awards.
South Africa is home to approximately 500 free-ranging cheetahs which live outside of protected areas, roaming through farmlands and coming into conflict with landowners. Traditional (lethal) forms of predator control used by farmers have been random and unsuccessful at targeting problem animals, with many non-target species falling victim to traps and poison, while simultaneously failing to provide farmers with long term lasting relief from predation losses. The primary in-situ conservation action delivered by Cheetah Outreach Trust is mitigation of farmer vs cheetah/predator conflict through the Livestock Guardian Dog Programme. This programme was established in 2005 with the specific aim of reducing predator-livestock conflict through the placement, training of the farmers and monitoring of Anatolian Shepherd Dogs in free-ranging cheetah territory. Monitoring results show a high level of farmer satisfaction with an over 98% reduction in livestock loss. Without the pro-active in-situ conservation activities implemented by the Cheetah Outreach Trust, South Africa would become a sink for the Southern African cheetah population which extends freely across the borders between South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Following the successful establishment of the Livestock Guarding Dog Programme, the Cheetah Outreach Trust was recognised by the South African Action Plan for the Conservation of Cheetahs and African Wild Dogs (Bela, Bela: 2009) and by the Southern African Regional Conservation Strategy for Cheetah and African Wild Dogs(2016) as being responsible for the:
- Education of relevant stakeholders regarding livestock husbandry practices proven to reduce livestock depredation, as well as implementing human-wildlife conflict rapid response teams to react quickly and effectively to conflict situations in South Africa.
- Promotion of co-existence between predators and intensive game farmers and livestock farmers.
- Promotion of responsible land use through influencing retailers, consumers and producers and measurably increasing the perceived intrinsic and economic value of cheetahs amongst all stakeholders.
- Raising national awareness and educating learners to develop an understanding of the value of their natural wildlife heritage.
- Providing an educational service to liaise with government departments to explain the provisions and goals of the Biodiversity Management Plan for cheetahs, as well as ensuring communication regarding the implementation of the aforementioned plan.
Captive breeders in South Africa sometimes obtain their breeding stock from the free ranging cheetah population occurring on private land in the Limpopo, North West and Northern Cape provinces, in order to supplement their genetic pool. Captured illegally and reportedly sold to facilities in the Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, some of these cheetahs are allegedly exported internationally as captive born. The captive breeding industry is often used as an ideal channel for black market trade; the lack of sufficient record keeping and legislation make this possible. The CITES report on the illegal trade of cheetah suggests “South Africa needs to enact and maintain strict national oversight of captive breeding and export of live cheetahs” (CITES: 2014)
The project aims to assist in the elimination of the illegal cheetah trade through the establishment of a functioning regional studbook for cheetah under the auspices of the African Preservation Programme (APP) of PAZAA, and be inclusive both of PAAZA members and non-members who hold cheetah, as well as lobbying regional conservation authorities to seek compliance in their permitting conditions. Membership of the studbook, supported by DNA proof of origin, will ensure that all cats traded are legitimately captive bred. This is currently in the process of being included into a Biological Management Plan for Cheetah which will be an annexure to the National Environmental Management Act of South Africa.
The rescue and rehabilitation of the male cheetah
This cheetah is a free roaming cheetah that was caught in a gintrap on a farming area in the North West Province close to the Botswana border. His coalition mate was with him at the time. The Provincial Conservation Authority of the North West Province together with a private veterinarian rescued the cheetah from the gintrap but unfortunately his coalition mate was nowhere to be found. He was urgently taken to a very experienced veterinarian known for his specialized surgical skills and his severed ligaments and blood vessels were re-attached. He was then taken to the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre for temporary holding.
As the main role-player in the free roaming cheetah conservation environment, Cheetah Outreach Trust entered into discussions with other relevant role-players as well as the Conservation Authority to ensure the speedy release back of this cheetah into a free roaming situation in the area where he came from. Fortunately, all was in agreement with this and this is when the urgent search for a satellite collar for the cheetah began.
The importance of this project
As stated in the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species, the status of the cheetah is ‘vulnerable’, with their population declining. Out of the approximate 4,190 cheetahs surviving in Southern Africa, a large proportion (up to 72%) live outside protected areas on farmlands. The rescued male cheetah originated from the cross-border cheetah population between South Africa and Botswana, one of the last strongholds for cheetah in Africa. Removing the male cheetah totally and reintroducing it to an adequately fenced protected area in South Africa would simply have the effect that a territory vacuum will be created. This would result in a further influx of cheetah from Botswana into this area of South Africa. This would have a direct impact on the Botswana cheetah and also creating further intolerance from the farming community, which see the movement of cheetah out of Botswana in a negative light due to predation conflict with livestock farmers.
By Cheetah Outreach Trust fitting the male cheetah with a highly advanced satellite tracking collar, with other conservation role players, they can effectively monitor the movement of the cheetah and place conflict mitigation efforts in place to prevent or minimise conflict with intolerant farmers. Cheetah Outreach Trust also have a number of livestock guardian dogs in the area and the collar will give them a further insight into the movement of cheetah in an area where livestock guardian dogs are guarding livestock flocks. The data collected from the movement of the cheetah will also be made available to the farming community for them to understand the extent of the range of free roaming cheetah on farmland and into neighbouring Botswana.
How we got involved
Ubuntu Wildlife Trust will be funding the satellite tracking costs to enable Cheetah Outreach Trust to collect the invaluable data from the movements of the male cheetah. Our charity was keen to work with them on this project to support the conservation of cheetah. As a charity, we are passionate about raising awareness, educating and supporting communities who live alongside wildlife in Africa. We know the importance of reducing human-cheetah conflict to help support cheetah conservation and the farmers that depend on their livestock.
We need your support!
We are looking to raise a total of £500 to fund the satellite tracking costs for 1 year and then for a further year for Cheetah Outreach Trust to carry out the research project. If you would like to support this project, you can donate by clicking on the link below. Or you can visit our ‘causes’ page and click on the Cheetah tracking Project.
Any support would be greatly appreciated, no matter how small it may seem, any contribution will be helping towards an important research project. The data collected will provide highly useful information that will help towards the protection and conservation of cheetah populations living outside of protected areas, that roam on farmlands.
Thank you for your continued support and we thank all that have kindly donated to our causes.