Tanzania carnivore conservation

Cheetah in Tanzanian

Top carnivore conservation has been a major long-running focus for ZSL, with particular focus on the cheetah since 1991. With the support of the Tanzanian authorities and in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), ZSL carried out the longest running in-depth study of a wild cheetah population. We also established a National Carnivore conservation Centre in Tanzania, to allow the country to protect its special carnivores.

Why we are there

Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction on the IUCN Red List. With the loss of their habitat and mounting pressure from humans, which has increased competition with other large predators, cheetah populations have become ever-more fragmented and isolated, putting them at risk of losing genetic diversity. Wild African hunting dogs are in even greater trouble as a result of pressures on the vast expanses of habitat that they require, and are now listed as Endangered. We need to know more about these predators in order to know how to help them.

Cheetah census

Since 1974 the Serengeti Cheetah Project has been keeping track of individual cheetahs living on the plains in the southern part of the Serengeti National Park. This population numbers around 50 adult females and 20 adult males at any one time, and individuals can be easily identified by their distinctive spot patterns. Over the years this study has told us a great deal about wild cheetahs: their ecology, ranging patterns, social behaviour and hunting strategies. With the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) and Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) we are now establishing a scheme for monitoring cheetah numbers across the country. Furthermore, as the existing protected areas cannot ensure a long-term future for these beautiful cats, we are investigating ways to help cheetahs and humans to co-exist in the larger landscape

Genetic management

As populations become small, they become vulnerable to genetic problems such as inbreeding, essentially because there is much less genetic variety in a smaller population than a larger one. In order to understand these genetic processes, we have to understand the animals’ breeding system. In the Serengeti we know the mothers (and often grandmothers and great grandmothers) of most of the cheetahs, but we know little about their fathers. New techniques for extracting DNA from faeces are now being used by ZSL's genetics labs to identify the fathers in the population. This enables us to estimate the likelihood of inbreeding and losses in genetic diversity in isolated populations and to hence plan long-term genetic management of fragmented cheetah populations.

News

2014: Nick Mitchell, who is the eastern African co-ordinator of the Rangewide Conservation Programme for Cheetah and African Wild Dogs, a joint project of the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society, recently contributed to a new report on the illegal trade affecting African Cheetahs  presented at a recent meeting of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Mitchell has been quoted in the Guardian, explaining how the report’s findings will be addressed in the future and why urgent action is required to save sub-populations which may disappear in the next few years.

The Tanzania cheetah watch

As well as the scientific work, we are using 'Cheetah Watch' leaflets to persuade tourists in Tanzania to send us their photos of cheetahs, which can be matched with spot pattern records and used to monitor cheetah population size across Tanzania.

People involved

  • ZSL’s Sarah Durant manages the Cheetah and carnivore conservation project

Partners & Sponsors

  • National Carnivore conservation Centre
  • Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI)
  • Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA)

News

2014: Nick Mitchell, who is the eastern African co-ordinator of the Rangewide Conservation Programme for Cheetah and African Wild Dogs, a joint project of the Zoological Society of London and the Wildlife Conservation Society, recently contributed to a new report on the illegal trade affecting African Cheetahs  presented at a recent meeting of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Mitchell has been quoted in the Guardian, explaining how the report’s findings will be addressed in the future and why urgent action is required to save sub-populations which may disappear in the next few years.