March 4, 2009
First Camera-Trap Photo of Saharan Cheetah
From New Scientist magazine:
The first camera-trap photographs of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah have been taken in Algeria.
Estimates put the numbers of the animal, also known as the Northwest African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) as low as 250, but, says Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London, this is guesswork. "Virtually nothing is known about the population," she says.
Durant, working with staff from the Office du Parc National de l'Ahaggar (OPNA), says the photographs were taken as part of the first systematic camera trap survey across the central Sahara, covering an area of 2,800 square kilometres.
The survey identified four different Saharan cheetahs, using spot patterns unique to each individual. The two photographs released to the media show extremely thin, hungry-looking cats.
The Northwest African cheetah is found over the Sahara desert and savannahs of North and West Africa, respectively, including Algeria, Niger, Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo. The populations are fragmented and small, with the biggest thought to be found in Algeria.
The ongoing surveys in the region will also work with the local Tuareg pastoralist community to find out more about the ecology of the cheetah and identify threats to it. The species has just been put on Appendix I on the Convention of Migratory Species.