Published on February 12th, 2015 | by James Ayre
Critically Endangered & Elusive Saharan Cheetah Glimpsed In New Images
One of the rarest animals in the world, the critically endangered and elusive Saharan Cheetah, was recently caught on film by a camera trap in Ahaggar Cultural Park, Algeria.
These are, believe it or not, actually some of the only images ever taken of these human-avoiding animals. Something you can definately get a sense of while looking at these these pictures — this cheetah does not seem to be enjoying the attention.
The images were obtained during research being done by scientists and conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, and various other groups. Amongst the findings of the research, is the fact that the animals — now on the brink of extinction — exist at only very, very low population densities, and would/will require huge areas of natural habitat for effective conservation. That is to say, for their continued survival — otherwise extinction seems to be the near-future fate of the subspecies.
As it stands, there are estimated to be less than 250 of the Saharan cheetahs left — which makes them one of the rarest largest mammals in the world.
A recent press release provides more:
Remote infra-red camera traps were used and the photographs gathered have provided the world’s scientific community with some of the only close-up photographs ever taken of the Saharan cheetah. The Saharan cheetah adapts its behavior to cope with the harsh desert environment in which it lives. They are active at night, probably to avoid heat or contact with humans, and must cover a vast amount of ground to find prey.
Research into how cheetahs survive within extreme desert conditions gives scientists a better understanding of how best to approach their conservation. The survival of large carnivores within the Sahara desert indicates that at present the Ahaggar Cultural Park is still a relatively healthy habitat; however there are threats to cheetah and their prey. Authors argue that more needs to be done to secure this habitat’s long-term survival.
Farid Belbachir, lead-author from Laboratoire d’Ecologie et Environnement, Université de Béjaïa, Algeria, stated: “This is the first time we have been able to collect scientific data on the rare Saharan cheetah, as in the past we have had to rely on anecdotes and guesswork. We hope that this important carnivore does not follow the path to extinction like other Algerian desert species such as the addax antelope and dama gazelle.”
Dr Sarah Durant, co-author from WCS and ZSL, noted: “This research provides us with important new insights into the world of this remarkable desert-dwelling large cat. I hope that it not only provides invaluable scientific information about the ecology of the Saharan cheetah for the first time but also reminds the world of the value of studying and protecting desert species and their environments, which are often overlooked by researchers and conservation programs.”
The Saharan cheetah (now) lives only in pockets of the desert environments of north and west Africa. The subspecies is notably more nocturnal, and wide-ranging (with lower population densities) than any of the other cheetah species currently in existence.
The new research is detailed in a paper recently published in PLoS One.
Image Credit: Farid Belbachir/ZSL/OPN