Cheetah Conservation in Action
Protecting Cheetah Habitat and Wild Prey
Cheetahs require incredibly large areas to hunt and raise their young. Healthy rangelands in the Maasai Steppe are vital to the long-term survival of this magnificent cat. They are also critical to the Maasai’s main livelihood of livestock keeping. Helping communities protect the rangelands for both livestock and wildlife while pursuing real benefits from the presence of cheetahs on communal lands are important goals of the Maasai Steppe Cheetah Conservation Program.
Strong environmental governance is critical for successful habitat and wildlife protection. Like other big cats, cheetahs benefit from APW’s rangeland management programs. Our staff works with dedicated natural resource committees in rural villages to develop effective environmental policies and bylaws, for example to demarcate vital grazing areas and protect water catchments. Of course, with minimal income, investing in active rangeland protection is challenging for rural villagers. Therefore, APW currently supports the training, outfitting and daily activities of village game scout teams to patrol local habitats, to conduct anti-poaching operations and to enforce village natural resource by-laws. Preventing illegal charcoal production, uncontrolled late-burning forest fires and bush-meat poaching are important activities contributing to the conservation of cheetahs and the viability of wildlife-based tourism ventures.
Finding cheetahs in the Maasai Steppe is a challenging job since they naturally occur at low densities. Nevertheless, APW’s team has identified numerous cheetahs in rural villages working with traditional Hadzabe trackers to find cheetah spoor or paw prints, village game scout teams and locally provided information. Monitoring cheetahs is critical in the Maasai Steppe to our understanding of cheetah population trends. It also helps local communities identify critical areas where cheetahs reside, key information for the development of wildlife-based tourism ventures.
Cheetah Conservation Education
Cheetah attacks on livestock are relatively infrequent in the Maasai Steppe. Nevertheless, a lack of differentiation between the spotted cats often means people blame and kill cheetahs for livestock attacks actually perpetrated by leopards. Therefore, raising local awareness about the world’s fastest cat is critical to its survival. Currently, APW is producing a new, tailor-made cheetah conservation workbook for rural schoolchildren and their families. In addition, APW provides annual study tours to Tarangire National Park where students view cheetahs in the wild in a non-confrontational setting, field trips to visit Living Walls (preventing conflict between livestock and large carnivores) and environmental summer camps with a strong focus on living with large carnivores.