Picture of Jane the cheetahCheetah “Jane” was cap­tured in the south­east­ern sec­tion of the Stanley ranch on 5 August 2009. A female cub was the first to enter the trap cage, but Jane stayed nearby and was sub­se­quently cap­tured when we moved a sec­ond trap along­side the one hold­ing the cub. Her other cub stayed nearby and the fam­ily reunited imme­di­ately after the cap­tured chee­tahs were released. Two weeks after their release, Jane went into a sec­ond trap on the north­ern sec­tion of the Stanley Ranch and we were able to release her imme­di­ately. Jane and her cubs were in great con­di­tion on both trap­ping occasions.

Jane’s col­lar is a “Global Satilite to Mobile” (GSM) trans­mit­ter – it sent hourly data via text mes­sag­ing for the four months that it was trans­mit­ting. The infor­ma­tion included the gps point and the ambi­ent tem­per­a­ture. From this data we can see that Jane trav­eled longer dis­tances in the evening hours and shorter dis­tances dur­ing times when the herders are out with their live­stock. At one point, Jane was 500 meters from a goat wear­ing one of our test col­lars but the herder never saw the chee­tahs. Jane and her cubs crossed the busy Mombasa Highway twice – once between 11PM and mid­night and the return was at 1AM nearly three weeks later.

Jane has taught us some inter­est­ing things, such as the following:

  • She crossed the main hig­way (Mombassa Highway) twice at night.
  • She trav­els exten­sively in the night hours.
  • Unlike most chee­tahs, she appears to be less active dur­ing the day. This may be an adap­ta­tion to liv­ing in a devel­oped area.
  • She has moved into Masai pas­toral lands in rugged ter­rain — out­side of our study design area.

The fol­low­ing image shows Jane’s move­ments between 20 Aug and 1 September after she was released:

When Jane moved into the neigh­bor­ing Maasailand south of the rail­way it became more dif­fi­cult for us to mon­i­tor her. With each data down­load we hoped that she would return to the Salama study area, but on November 20 we received the final trans­mis­sion. The Kilimanjaro Lion project searched the area not far from their northern-most study area but never received trans­mis­sion from the col­lar. There have been occa­sional reports of the sight­ing of a col­lared chee­tah from Maasailand, but Jane has not returned to the Salama area. We are not cer­tain if the col­lar was dam­aged or if it failed – unless we retrieve the col­lar we may never know what caused the cease in transmission.

We have been able to learn a lot about chee­tah move­ments from the short period of time that the col­lar was trans­mit­ting. Our pre­vi­ous col­lared chee­tah, “Mom”, was wear­ing a stan­dard trans­mit­ter that could only be mon­i­tored through radio teleme­try track­ing. Although we tracked her weekly for 2.5 years, there were occa­sional gaps in our abil­ity to find Mom. We could not tell where she went dur­ing the weeks that we could not find her. With Jane, we know that she moved out­side of the study area and she had a range in those four months of about 800 square kilo­me­ters. Mom’s track­ing data gave her a home range of only 60 square kilo­me­ters. With Jane’s hourly data we could see the adap­ta­tion she made to human activ­ity pat­terns – this night time move­ment occurred even when she was in the less densely set­tled areas in Maasailand.
We tried to get a visual con­fir­ma­tion of Mom on a monthly basis, so we were able to observe some of her behav­iours. Because Jane moved out of our study area after only six weeks, we never had a visual of her after she entered the sec­ond trap. Mom was seen chas­ing live­stock on only two occa­sions after she was col­lared – in both cases it was dur­ing the time that her cubs were reach­ing inde­pen­dence. Jane was in close prox­im­ity to graz­ing live­stock on sev­eral occa­sions in the six weeks after she was col­lared, but she was never seen chas­ing livestock.

We are still in the process of ana­lyz­ing the data from both of the Salama chee­tahs. It has been our inten­tion to col­lar three addi­tional chee­tahs in the area. However we have had dif­fi­culty in cap­ture of the chee­tahs due to the pres­ence of other preda­tors and the level of dis­tur­bance (peo­ple steal­ing the the bait we used to attract chee­tahs!). We are cur­rently tak­ing a small step back from chee­tah col­lar­ing while we work with cam­era traps and bait sta­tions to iden­tify bet­ter means of attract­ing the chee­tahs with­out the level of dis­tur­bances we have had in pre­vi­ous attempts. (See infor­ma­tion on chee­tah cam­era trapping).

ACK con­ducts stud­ies to eval­u­ate chee­tah habi­tats, human inter­ac­tions and tol­er­ance in areas that sup­port chee­tah pop­u­la­tions on ranch­lands and wildlife dis­per­sal areas. This includes:

  • Evaluation of demo­graph­ics through track­ing of res­i­dent chee­tahs for long term mon­i­tor­ing of spe­cific chee­tah pop­u­la­tions and trans-located animals;
  • Cheetah health studies;
  • Developing pro­to­cols and research pro­grams to eval­u­ate health and genetics.

We esti­mate Kenya’s chee­tah pop­u­la­tion at about 1000 with a dis­tri­b­u­tion as mapped below. The major­ity of Kenya’s chee­tah pop­u­la­tions are well con­nected. To pre­vent frag­men­ta­tion the above stud­ies are needed.

ACK’s var­i­ous com­mu­nity projects have pro­moted an increased local tol­er­ance towards preda­tors. Yet, human and live­stock immi­gra­tion into wildlife habi­tat is inten­si­fy­ing. Regulating land devel­op­ment and imple­men­ta­tion of human-cheetah con­flict mit­i­ga­tion are indis­pens­able in Kenya range­land. We need to fur­ther under­stand prime chee­tah habi­tat qual­ity to man­age chee­tah range land and causal fac­tors of chee­tah pre­da­tion behaviors.

We would like to thank Classic Escapes for the col­lar dona­tion. We fre­quently give talks to tourists from zoos and con­ser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tions trav­el­ing with Classic Escapes. In 2009, Classic Escapes donated funds to pur­chase a radio col­lar and they spon­sored one of the Salama chee­tah scouts. After hear­ing about the dif­fi­culty we are hav­ing in radio col­lar­ing, Stacy Fiorantinos – Classic Escape’s direc­tor – pledged her con­tin­ued sup­port for ACK work through spon­sor­ship of two cam­era traps to assist us in non-invasive mon­i­tor­ing and in deter­min­ing meth­ods for future col­lar­ing procedures.

STUDY AREAS:

World chee­tah (Acinonyx juba­tus) num­bers (SALAMA: Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK) has been focused on a chee­tah pop­u­la­tion (ca. 25 chee­tahs) exist­ing in a human set­tle­ment, Salama (ca. 400km2) in south­ern Kenya. This pop­u­la­tion is fac­ing local extinc­tion due to land sub­di­vi­sion (47%) into 3000 plots that has lead to an increased human and live­stock immi­gra­tion and a reduc­tion of avail­able land and prey. Various research projects include: radio-tracking and chee­tah mon­i­tor­ing, eval­u­a­tion of human set­tle­ment and prey dis­tri­b­u­tion, con­flict ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and gen­eral inter­views. Results found increased annual live­stock losses by chee­tahs in dou­ble from 2005 to 2008, and human-related mor­tal­ity of 22 chee­tahs (2005−09) threat­ens this population.

SAMBURU:

In Samburu (pas­toral range­land, ca. 350km2), in north­ern Kenya lit­tle is known about the chee­tah pop­u­la­tion. Decreased tol­er­ance of preda­tors has been noted by pro­grammes in the region. The 2004 – 2007 National Cheetah Survey showed this area to have the high­est abun­dance of chee­tah tracks and sight­ings in the coun­try (unpub­lished report). Studies were ini­ti­ated in this area in 2008.

An increase in human den­sity, thus decrease in land for our wildlife, has lead to the encroach­ment of human set­tle­ment into the nat­ural habi­tat of wild ani­mals. In the same way, drought and loss of prey base results in chee­tahs shar­ing human set­tle­ment areas where they at times kill the people’s live­stock for their own survival.

Since Kenya’s inde­pen­dence, land uses have changes from pas­toral and large scale com­mer­cial farm­ing to an ever increas­ing num­ber of small-scale and sub­sis­tence farm­ing. Initially the affected areas where the com­mer­cial ranches were changed from gov­ern­ment or sin­gle land owner to that of a Group, Share Holder or Title Holder divi­sion. Group ranches often allow set­tle­ment or pas­toral use com­bined with com­mon land own­er­ship. In some cases peo­ple will form groups and con­tinue to man­age land together or sell to indi­vid­u­als who may com­bine plots to form large por­tions of the land, only to result in a bro­ken landscape.

This land taken by humans leaves no choice for the chee­tah – they must adapt to the human devel­op­ment or move away. As much as the human wants to sur­vive by want­ing more land, and leav­ing lit­tle or none for the wild ani­mals, the chee­tahs also must have their grounds to sur­vive as they too have fam­i­lies. As a result, when humans take more land peo­ple move nearer to the chee­tahs, inter­fer­ing with wild habitat.

Human Wildlife Conflict

High human pop­u­la­tion threaten chee­tahs sur­vival as chee­tahs are forced to share land with peo­ple. Many times this leads to dan­ger­ous mea­sures taken by the chee­tah. The chee­tah opts to prey on people’s live­stock as they are read­ily avail­able dur­ing the dry sea­son. In Africa, par­tic­u­larly in Kenya, large wild car­ni­vores have been at the fore­front of human-wildlife con­flict involv­ing live­stock. A mul­ti­tude of fac­tors can account for live­stock losses. These include: pre­da­tion, dis­eases, drought, birth defects, injury, poi­son, nat­ural causes and theft. Predation receives the most pub­lic­ity, both locally and nation­ally. Interviews have been con­ducted with ranch­ers who have lost live­stock to these causes.

Some local peo­ple believe that chee­tahs tar­get the red and brown goats assum­ing they are gazelles. At first the vil­lagers did not care that the chee­tah is an endan­gered species as their losses were unac­cept­able. But thanks to the ACK team, the com­mu­nity receives edu­ca­tion and infor­ma­tion which has assisted many of these res­i­dents in improved live­stock health and hus­bandry. In addi­tion, they are pro­vided with infor­ma­tion that helped them to under­stand the value of hav­ing the chee­tah in their area in regards to con­ser­va­tion. They under­stand that the chee­tah needs to have food thus they as a com­mu­nity must avoid poach­ing of prey species. As long as poach­ing con­tin­ues the prob­lem of chee­tah prey­ing on the live­stock will only worsen.

RESEARCH

Ongoing use of com­mu­nity scouts and improved chee­tah mon­i­tor­ing and con­flict mit­i­ga­tion in com­mu­nity areas include:

  • 80 Morning and Night dri­ving game counts (Salama)
  • 80 walk­ing game counts (Salama)
  • 61 con­flicts were brought to the atten­tion of our Salama field offi­cers. 27 con­flict inter­views ver­i­fied live­stock lost to chee­tah (6), Hyena (9), and wild dog (1) – eleven inci­dents were attended but there was not enough evi­dence to con­firm the respon­si­ble preda­tor. An addi­tional 34 inci­dents were reported late or by neigh­bours thus ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the loss could not be con­firmed (chee­tah (6), Hyena (16), jackal (2), wild dog (1), leop­ard (1), python (1), Unidentified (7));
  • Walking tran­sects set up in Samburu in September and con­ducted October through December with the ACK scout and Meibae ranger staff com­plet­ing 54 tran­sects 9data analy­sis still underway);

  • The high­way con­tin­ues to be the largest threat to preda­tors in the Salama area with six ani­mals being killed by vehi­cles in 2010 (python (1), ser­val (3), hyena (1), and jackal (1). The roads in Samburu are also being improved, but the same ratio of losses is not reported.

  • Traps set between February and July in Salama (180 trap days — 3 traps x 60 days) and Samburu (1 trap x 50 days) with no suc­cess­ful chee­tah cap­ture — all traps were removed from the field for repairs and stor­age in August until 2011;
  • KWS granted per­mis­sion for Dr. Moshin Likoniwalla to work with us for chee­tah immo­bi­liza­tions with KWS vet­eri­nary staff and when KWS vet­eri­nary staff are unavail­able – Moshin has offered to donate his time for the chee­tah radio col­lar­ing project;
  • Nataanywe’s col­lar was removed on 16 August. We last down­loaded the col­lar in February 2010, but in March we were unable to get near enough to the sig­nal because she was in the Koitigor hills. The last points stored in the col­lar occurred on 18 April – one week before we searched for the sig­nal again. The col­lar fail­ure occurred due to a crack in the epoxy sur­round­ing the bat­tery cas­ing – water shorted the bat­ter­ies.From the infor­ma­tion in the col­lar we can see that Nataanywe fre­quently crosses the Ewaso River between Samburu and Buffalo Reserves. Most of the time her cross­ings occurred when there was water in the river – thus show­ing that chee­tahs do swim. In between cross­ings Nattanywe vis­ited the river about once a week, she also took water from the reser­voir at the Sopa Lodge in the north­ern sec­tion of the Samburu Reserve.For nearly a month after the col­lar ceased trans­mit­ting the Ewaso River was at a record height – this was when the flood­ing occurred that dev­as­tated the reserves and lodges near the river. During that time Nataanywe remained high in the hills of Samburu. In July and August, after the col­lar stopped trans­mit­ting, she was seen in the Ngare Mara area of the Buffalo Reserve. Each time the chee­tah team attempted to locate Nataanywe she would dis­ap­pear, and with­out the trans­mit­ter work­ing it was not pos­si­ble for us to find her.I left for uni­ver­sity in late August but reports of sight­ings con­tin­ued. In September, Cosmas was not able to find her and there were no reported sight­ings… then in the end of October we received news that she was seen with four tiny cubs in Buffalo Springs Reserve. One month later we received reports that two of the cubs were miss­ing and that there were lions near her at the time that the two cubs dis­ap­peared. Between November and May we were given reg­u­lar reports of Nataanywe and her cubs from both Buffalo Springs and Samburu. Cosmas could not remove the col­lar at that time – if any­thing went wrong dur­ing immo­bi­liza­tion we needed to know that the cubs could sur­vive on their own.I returned to Kenya in June and we went to the reserves to con­firm Nataanywe’s con­di­tion and deter­mine the most suit­able date for col­lar removal. We decided that the cubs would be nearly one year in August and that we would visit then to con­firm a date when the cubs were capa­ble of sur­viv­ing yet before Nataanywe went into sea­son and got preg­nant again.On August 16 we found Nataanywe and her cubs. The cubs spent all of their time chas­ing dikdik – with Nataanywe quite happy to let them wan­der out of her sight. The KWS vet­eri­nary team was called in and we darted Nataanywe to remove the col­lar. Within a few hours of receiv­ing the rever­sal of the immo­bi­liza­tion drugs the fam­ily was together again. Reports in September and October con­firm that the fam­ily remains together. In November, the rains and tall grasses have made it dif­fi­cult for dri­vers to find the chee­tahs. I would expect Nataanywe to leave the cubs soon to start a new fam­ily, but this time her move­ments will be a mys­tery to us again.