Although February was a relatively quiet month, with just 6 sightings, March has more than compensated for that shortage, with no less than 19 sightings across the Reserve. This has brought the total number of individuals identified since the project commenced in November 2009 to 17. If we look back at the photo archives that supporters have kindly provided from the end of April 2009, we have a total of 30 individuals.
These totals are extremely encouraging in terms of the Reserve’s population and especially when one considers that the first four months of the project have coincided with the summer months, with thick bush, when one would expect sightings to be at their most challenging. The 2008/2009 Kruger census only identified 135 cheetah in a vastly larger area. The already comparatively high total from the Timbavati demonstrates the superb compliance and support that we’re lucky enough to be receiving from the Reserve’s community of owners, staff, lodges and visitors (thank you!) and also reflects what appears to be a highly mobile and wide-ranging population.
Moreover, within that total of 30 cheetahs identified since April 2009 there mothers with a total of 8 cubs, including three adolescents that will soon be joining the breeding population. Finally, it would appear that of the Reserve’s mothers are managing to overcome the usually dismal cub mortality rate. Whether this is just because of their own skills or perhaps partly due to other factors is currently unknown, although we hope that the study will be able to provide some answers. One hypothesis is that as the lion population of apex predators appears to be declining, it is allowing mess predators, such as cheetah and leopard to flourish. Another possibility and observation is that these mothers are utilizing denser bush for both hunting and raising their cubs, affording them greater cover from potentials threats.
We are also now beginning to amass data on our population’s behavior and little surprise, perhaps, to discover that over 75 of observed kills are of impala. The study is about to place GPS collars on an adult male and adult female and this will increase greatly our ability to observe and record such data, providing a definitive record of each animal’s range.
Other project highlights over the past two months included the equipping of the Reserve’s ranger patrols with Canon compact digital cameras, so that they will be able to participate in the census (see photo at the end of the newsletter) the submission of the project’s first faecal/scat samples to the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s laboratory in Namibia for DNA and prey analysis (results to follow shortly and a talk that we gave to journalists from the UK and Eire which was very kindly organized by the staff at Kambaku.
Just a reminder of the project’s website address:
Last but not least, we would like to give a special “mention in dispatches” to all those people who have so kindly submitted photos sightings reports (and cheetah scat!) in the past two months:
Dave, Dylan, Mark, Megs, Mike, Ray, “Bear”, Herbert and Norman at Ngala, Dale Jackson at Tanda Tula, Neville at Kambaku, Dave Falkner at Shindzela, Kyle at Umlani, Patrick at King’s, Geoff and Jeanette Bowers-Winters, “Ziggy” Hugo , Luckson at Makanyi Lodge, Howard Walker, Steve Blatherwick, Paul White, Almero Bosch andPamela at the Ellie Research Project.
|Cheetah Sightings Legend:|
|Blue||Sightings from the last 2 months|
|Green||Sightings from 2 to 4 months ago|
|Pink||Sightings older than 4 months|
(Taken by Patrick O’Brien of King’s Camp)
(Taken by Dale Jackson of Tanda Tula)
TPNR ranger patrol with their anger Cheetah Project Canon camera
Thank you for your support!