Only 10 000 adult cheetahs are believed to remain in the wild today, around 6 000 of these, are in southern Africa.
Outdoors with Rosie Mitchell
Cheetahs pose no threat to humans, being shy, elusive and non-confrontational, and are rarely spotted at all.
They are able to survive even in areas dominated by humans — provided they do not fall victim to snares, often set for other animals. But as cheetahs very occasionally kill livestock, many farmers erroneously view them as pests and tragically, snare or shoot them.
This species is in any case vulnerable to threats from other carnivores, since with a kill success rate of 50%, they are the most successful hunters among the big carnivores, being the fastest land animals on earth, and built for incredible speed. They can run as fast as 103 km an hour!
They are lighter weight and not as physically strong as their competitors, so very often lose their prey, and sometimes their young, to lions and spotted hyenas.
Rather than defend their prey, they will choose the safer option and leave it to the threatening competitor, to avoid risking injury or death.
Add the fragmentation of hunting ground and loss of habitat caused by humans, and it is easy to see why cheetahs are currently listed Vulnerable —just one step away from Endangered —by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Last weekend Mukuvisi Woodlands hosted three successful events which highlighted Cheetah Conservation in Zimbabwe in partnership with researcher Dr Esther van der Meer of the Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe.
Hailing from The Netherlands, Esther spent five years researching the African wild dog in Hwange National Park, culminating in her PhD on this species, before moving on to ground-breaking research into the status of the cheetah in Zimbabwe. At present, the number of cheetahs remaining in the wild in this country is unknown.
Esther’s research aims first to fill this information void and then to define workable strategies which will help ensure the survival of this beautiful yet threatened species, one of the five major carnivores we enjoy in Zimbabwe. In doing so, Esther continues with the important cheetah research begun by Dambari Wildlife Trust.
The Mukuvisi Woodlands Eco Schools Cheetah Day on March 15 was well-attended and filled with fun. The Eco Schools Programme is an excellent conservation education initiative run by Mukuvisi Woodlands under the stewardship of full time Education Officer Gibson Nhokwara.
Following an introductory presentation by Esther to all the children, groups from each Eco School moved around nine woodland learning stations, each of which focused on a different aspect of the cheetah. They played games at each one, which helped consolidate what they learnt, combining the process with some fun.
National Parks attended the event and had a display stand and learning station. In addition to the almost 100 children who attended the event via Eco Schools, at least twice this many younger children came on school visits to the Woodlands on the same morning.
They observed some of the cheetah centred activities, went on walks and visited the game viewing platform, making it an action packed, very busy day at Mukuvisi Woodlands.
Attending adults learnt just as much as the Eco Schools Children and student teachers from this event! Esther had some excellent ideas with the games she had put together, and adults joined in, discovering they knew less than they thought, about the cheetah and other carnivores.
After all the groups had visited these stations, played the games, enjoyed quizzes at each, and watched an informative, entertaining film on cheetahs, the event culminated in a quiz in which all the children participated.
The level of detail they had absorbed about cheetahs and their fellow carnivores in just one morning was very well demonstrated by their answers and enthusiasm!