Royal treatment for South Africa’s cheetahs
The cheetah‚ with its status categorised as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature‚ has been given a boost by Princess Michael of Kent.
The patron to the Cheetah Conservation Trust and the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre arrived in South Africa this week to launch her book‚ A Cheetah's Tale‚ as part of a campaign‚ together with the Ichikowitz Family Foundation‚ to halt the rapid decrease in the cheetah population.
“One of the greatest battles in global conservation is finding the balance between wildlife and humans - the plight of the cheetahs personify this difficult struggle‚” she said. “Cheetahs have to run and it is vital for cheetahs to have adequate living and breeding space.
“It is our responsibility to ensure we secure enough space and the survival of this extraordinary animal."
Her book is an autobiographical story about the bond that can exist between people and animals. With its photographs‚ it is also a portrait of Africa‚ and a call to action to defend natural ecosystems.
With its tear streaks from its eye and lithe body built for speed‚ the cheetah needs wide ranges to survive. The sprinters can only maintain high speeds for 300 to 400 metres and so rely on the element of surprise to catch their prey. Females are solitary‚ raising their cubs alone until the female offspring set off to find their own home ranges that can vary from 50sq metres to thousands of square metres. The males hang out together.
Given their need for large ranges‚ their main threat is habitat loss mainly to agricultural and human settlements. In protected areas they face competition from lions‚ leopards and hyenas.
The total population of cheetah in South Africa is estimated to be in the region of 1160 and 1700 – 4190 (in Southern Africa - according to the IUCN. Worldwide it is thought there are about 7100 in the wild.