Free-Roaming Cheetah Census

The Cheetah Outreach Trust, in partnership with Ashia Cheetah Conservation, the University of Stellenbosch, and the University of Groningen, has embarked on a Free-Roaming Cheetah Census Project  with the support of landowner and farmer organisations including SA Hunters and the PHASA Foundation. This initiative is dedicated to gather scientific data relating to the free-roaming cheetah populations that occur on farmland areas outside the confines of formal fenced protected areas in South Africa. Its primary objectives are to ascertain population numbers, gather precise insights into cheetah behavior and habits, and explore the dynamics of human-cheetah interactions in farm areas.

Over the course of the next three years, the project will follow a multifaceted approach to collect information. This will include online questionnaires to landowners, deploying state-of-the-art cameras at scent marking sites, fitting captured cheetahs with satellite-linked collars for tracking, conducting thorough analysis of cheetah scat samples to discern prey preferences, and conducting meticulous field observations by teams of the Cheetah Outreach Trust, Ashia Cheetah Conservation and students from the Universities involved.

The overarching aim of this Free Roaming Cheetah Census is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of free-ranging cheetah populations on farmlands, areas beyond the scope of formal conservation areas. This evaluation will extend across national borders, offering a broad, cross-border perspective. The gathered data will serve as the foundation for crafting advanced conservation strategies, with benefits extending not only to landowners but also to the cheetahs that share their landscapes.

Central to this undertaking is the imperative need to equip farmers with knowledge about the conservation status of free-roaming cheetahs in their regions. The presence of these predators in specific locales is a testament to the harmony between their natural habitat and the stewardship of the land by farmers, resulting in a flourishing biodiversity. Armed with the rigorous scientific findings gleaned from this project, an ethos of coexistence and tolerance can be nurtured within the farming communities where cheetah co-exist. By implementing judicious predation management techniques, the sustainable co-existence of predators, including the remarkable cheetah, becomes an attainable aspiration.

The online survey can be assessed at https://ee.kobotoolbox.org/x/Ahljwhiv