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Botswana leads in cheetah conservation

Botswana is leading the score boards in conservation of the world’s fastest land mammal, the cheetah otherwise scientifically known as the Acinonyx jubatus.

The landlocked realm is home to at least 2 000 of the 7 100 cheetahs remaining globally and the country continues to make greater winning efforts to stave off the impending extinction of one of the world’s beautiful creatures, often used as tourist attraction and sometimes as pet in other countries.

According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, resonates with the viewpoint of Cheetah conservation Botswana (CCB), which amplifies that the cheetah is ‘sprinting towards the edge of extinction’ and could soon be lost forever unless urgent, landscape-wide conservation action is taken.

The study, led by Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Panthera and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), reveals that while renowned for its speed and spots, the degree of persecution cheetahs encounter both inside and outside protected areas is largely unrecognised.

Even within guarded parks and reserves, cheetahs rarely escape the pervasive threats of human-wildlife conflict, prey loss due to over hunting by people, habitat loss and illegal trafficking of cheetah parts.

To make matters worse, as one of the world’s most wide-ranging carnivores, 77 per cent of the cheetah’s habitat falls outside protected areas.

Unrestricted by boundaries, the species’ wide-ranging movements weaken law enforcement protection and greatly amplify its vulnerability to human pressures.

Impressively, Botswana has committed close to 40 per cent of its land to some form of conservation through either state protected areas such as national parks, and game reserves or wild management areas.

However, due to the nature of cheetahs being wide roamers, their population is greatly compromised by cheetah-human conflict in communal or private areas.

In quest to work towards ensuring a future for the cheetah and its Kalahari home, CCB has localised interventions, starting by implementing a five-year strategy based in Gantsi District.

The CCB spokesperson, Ms Connie Sebati divulged that they sought to conserve the national cheetah population in Botswana through the use of scientific research, community outreach and public education.

She says they envision to maintain population of free ranging cheetahs and promote coexistence with communities.

“In research we collect baseline data on cheetah ecology, movement patterns and distribution of cheetahs in Botswana.

We also provide support and technical services to the rural farming community in Botswana through farming workshops, farmers site visits and distribution of user friendly resources to farmers.

Conservation education facilitates and delivers curriculum based on wildlife conservation and environmental education awareness,” Ms Sebati explained.

The deliberate decision to adopt and implement the five-year strategy is to ensure that resources are channeled towards appropriate interventions where they are mostly needed and so that CCB can monitor and evaluate the work done on the ground.

The circle of conflict suggests that if one cheetah is killed, the vacant space creates an opportunity for more cheetahs to inhabit that particular area, therefore, killing them does not solve the problem if they prey on livestock.

Although the population of cheetahs is stable in Botswana, there is need for the farming communities to practice proper farming management techniques such as using herders to go out with the livestock and use of livestock guarding dogs.

Other farming techniques include kraaling livestock at night and disease management.

“The future of wildlife lies in the hands of the communities that live side by side with them.

Nonetheless, it’s important for farmers to learn about carnivores in the area before establishing a cattle post.

It’s equally important to be tolerant and be open to coexistence because at the end of it all, co-existence will soon become a reality,” Ms Sebati said.

Ms Sebati explains that planet earth is connected by an ecosystem that consists of micro organisms, carnivores and herbivores.

Therefore we cannot remove one leg of the ecosystem because then it will create an imbalance.

Carnivores regulate the population of herbivores.

Moreover, killing of cheetahs cripples the economy because it is part of the big five tourism attractions.

She reiterated that some retaliatory killings emanate from mistaken identification of cheetahs.

“Cheetahs are often mistaken for leopards because of the spots.

Cheetahs and leopards often exist in the same areas, outside national parks.

They are similar in appearance, but there are differences between the two,” noted Ms Sebati. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Karabo Molosi

Location : GABORONE

Event : Interview

Date : Jun 13 Tue,2017

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