In search of cheetah from Zimbabwe

Participate

in the training of Zimbabwean students in ecology and wildlife conservation through internships within the project.

Take inventory

of the cheetah population in Zimbabwe, and determine their number and spatial distribution.

Increase awareness

of local populations, at villages and schools, to the cheetah conservation, as well as other large carnivores.

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Investigate

the conflict between cheetah and human activities, and propose conflict resolution methods. Identify the main threats to species conservation in this country.

Project status : FINISHED

Species concerned : cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

Vulnerable (UICN 2008).

Location : Zimbabwe

Human partner communities : Villagers, breeders, tourism industry, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPMWA).

Main objective : Participate in cheetah conservation in Zimbabwe by developing tools for research, education, and local capacity.

Project manager : Esther van der Meer, director of Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe (CCPZ) cheetahzimbabwe

HISA coordinator : William Crosmary.

Carte de répartition des populations de guépard dans le monde (orange : populations résidentes ; rouge : population probablement éteinte). Source UICN 2

Participative science for monitoring cheetahs in Zimbabwe

Participative science is defined as the voluntary participation of the general public (scientific citizens) in research projects under the direction of scientists. Regarding research on cheetahs, participative science mainly consists of retrieving reports or photographs from tourists, safari guides, rangers, etc. This approach is an effective and economical way to collect data for monitoring on the long-term and large-scale populations. In addition, it is also an important tool for awareness and education.

Since 2012, the Cheetah Conservation Project in Zimbabwe (CCPZ) has involved volunteer scientific citizens in collecting cheetah photos and observations. CCPZ mobilizes citizens through the provision of observation cards at the entrance to parks, posters, stickers, flyers, posts on social networks, a website on which observations can be declared, as well as publications in the media. Each year about 300 observations are sent to the CCPZ and more than 1000 photos. The unique distribution of stains on cheetahs makes it a real identity card, which allows to identify them on the photos. Currently, CCPZ has identified 104 cheetahs in its database.

The observations and photos allow to study the cheetah population in Zimbabwe and provide information on demographics and behaviors, which can be used to assess population size and health. The information collected also provides information on local, national and international distribution maps of the species and its movements.

HISA is therefore helping CCPZ to finance the maintenance of this monitoring program via participatory sciences for 2016 and 2017.

Example of information collected via observations and photos: female cheetah HNP013 – young, with her first litter of three cubs in 2014 and her second litter of five cubs in 2016.

The cheetah has disappeared 77% of its historical distribution in Africa. Today, there are fewer than 10,000 adults in the wild. Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in the range of the species. The Zimbabwe Wildlife Authority is concerned about its survival in the country, and they are developing a national action plan to conserve them.

Unfortunately, there is a great lack of information on the cheetah population status in Zimbabwe, the number of individuals and their distribution. Moreover, little is known about the threats to them, especially if they are in conflict with human activities.

This is where the Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe (CCPZ), created in 2012 by Dr. Esther van der Meer, comes into play. His mandate, with the help of HISA today, is to coordinate a large national inventory of the cheetah population, as well as other carnivores. This inventory consists of establishing a database of cheetah photographs, sighting reports, and testimonials from villagers, tourists, and wildlife officers. These also help to determine if and where the species is involved in conflicts with local human populations. If so, it helps to identify where the effort to raise awareness of cheetah conservation and conflict resolution needs to be done.

CCPZ members travel across Zimbabwe, meeting human communities, to gather information on the presence of cheetah, and to assess its involvement in conflicts with human activities.

The CCPZ project devotes part of its time to presenting cheetah in schools and villages. Most students, but also adults, know very little about the species.

The form and distribution of the black spots on the cheetah coat are specific to each cheetah. This allows, like our fingerprints, to recognize each individual. Thus, the photo bank of the CCPZ project constitutes a real census of the cheetah population in Zimbabwe.