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Cheetah: the final frontier?

Cheetah: the final frontier?

Cheetah: the final frontier?

With more than one third of its landmass set aside for wildlife, Zambia is the forgotten country for cheetah conservation, but it is finally gaining attention. The massive wilderness of the Kafue ecosystem and endless expanse of western Zambia’s Liuwa Plain both hold significant numbers of cheetah; however virtually nothing is known about their abundance, distribution, and the factors and threats facing them.

No research and monitoring programmes have been conducted here; but information is critical to effectively managing and conserving cheetah. Currently the non-profit Zambian registered trust, the Zambian Carnivore Programme, in collaboration with the country’s managing authority, the Zambia Wildlife Authority, and African Parks Network, have initiated intensive studies of cheetah in both the Kafue and Liuwa Plain in an effort to better understand the dynamics of these cats. 

In addition to the fact that these areas hold Zambia’s major cheetah populations, the country’s potential for transboundary conservation is perhaps equally important, given that Liuwa Plain borders Angola and is part of the Liuwa-Mussuma Transfrontier Conservation Area.  Similarly Kafue comprises a significant portion of the Kavango-Zambezi TFCA with potential links to populations in multiple KAZA countries. 

At approximately 22,000 km2, Kafue holds the potential to be home to the largest remaining cheetah population in the region, given its size and the frequency with which cheetah are sighted there. Nevertheless, similar to other Zambian carnivore species, cheetah are threatened by a number of factors in both ecosystems, including habitat loss, prey depletion, disease, and wire snare mortality.

In an effort to understand and elucidate the factors impacting cheetah, ongoing ZCP work includes intensive studies of individuals, large scale abundance and distribution surveys, ongoing work on competing carnivore species and predator-prey dynamics, risk-mapping and anti-snaring work.

In addition to research and immediate applied conservation activities, ZCP invests heavily in training, employing and educating Zambian wildlife professionals and currently supports two ZAWA graduate students at U.S. institutions; these students’ work focuses in part on cheetah in both Kafue and Liuwa.

In concert, these efforts will hopefully improve the prospects for Zambia to serve as one of the main cheetah strongholds in the region.

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The Septemeber 2012 issue of the Zambezi Traveller focused on cheetah and the amazing work done in preserving this magnificent animal in the Zambezi region.

The Cheetah: An icon of the Zambezi
Focus on the Cheetah
Cheetah of the Zambezi
Farmers the key for cheetah future
Cheetah Centre leads the way
Cheetah Ambassador in Victoria Falls
Cheetah: the final frontier?
Spot the difference...

You can download the full pdf version of this issue here.

Read more about the region in our destination guide:

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 10, Sept 2012)