February 24, 2009

Saharan Cheetah Captured On Camera

The critically endangered Northwest African, or Saharan, cheetah has been photographed by a camera trap in an experiment in Algeria.

The photographs were taken because of a project run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Office du Parc National de l'Ahaggar (OPNA).

The cheetah is only known in six countries: Algeria, Togo, Niger, Mali, Benin, and Burkina Faso.

However, the population of the animal might be fewer than 250 mature individuals.

A systematic camera-trap survey took the pictures across the central Sahara.  It identified four different Saharan cheetahs using spot patterns unique to each animals.

"The Saharan cheetah is critically endangered, yet virtually nothing is known about the population, so this new evidence, and the ongoing research work, is hugely significant," said ZSL's Dr Sarah Durant.

Farid Belbachir, who is running the field survey, added, "This is an incredibly rare and elusive subspecies of cheetah and current population estimates, which stand at less than 250 mature individuals, are based on guesswork."

"This study is helping us to turn a corner in our understanding, providing us with information about population numbers, movement and ecology."


On the Net: