Cheetah conservation in Tanzania has been a major focus for ZSL since 1991. With the support of the Tanzanian authorities, and more recently in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), we have been carrying out the longest- running in depth study of a wild cheetah population.
Building on our relationship 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 existing protected areas alone 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.
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 loss of their habitat, cheetah populations are increasingly becoming fragmented and isolated. As populations become small, they become vulnerable to genetic problems such as inbreeding. In order to understand these processes, we have to understand their breeding system. In the Serengeti we know the mothers (and often grandmothers and great grandmothers) of most of the cheetahs, but we know very 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 hence plan long-term genetic management of fragmented populations of cheetah.
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.
For further information please download the full: Tanzania cheetah conservation programme information sheet (652 KB)