Projects & Research

Study Areas
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN (Durant, Marker et al. 2008). Currently, Kenya holds 1200-1400 cheetahs with over 75% residing on land outside of National Parks and Reserves. Cheetahs have been extirpated from 25% of their historic Kenyan range in the last 20 years (KWS 2010). Cheetahs are a wide ranging species with a home range as large as 3000 square kilometers. 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.Increased land subdivision and human settlement results in reduction of cheetah habitat and prey base, which, in turn, creates an increase in cheetah-human conflict and human-related cheetah mortality.

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.

 ACK is focused in two regions (Salama and Samburu) that are identified as a high priority in the National Cheetah and Wild Dog Strategic Plan (IUCN/SSC 2007). Using these two sites, we pilot research and conflict mitigation methods for uses on a national scale. In 2014, we began working with the Wajir South constituency to initiate a conservancy. We completed the first National Cheetah Survey in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS) in 2007 to provide baseling information on cheetahs on a national scale. We are currently piloting methods with the intention of starting a second range wide survey in 2016.

 We began our work with an aim to identify areas for potential relocation of problem cheetahs into the Soysambu Conservancy on Delamere Estate in 2001. We quickly realized that there was much to learn about cheetah sustainability in Kenya and we began working in the Machakos region where problem cheetahs were threatened. These threats to cheetah survival hold the key to long term conservation in Kenya.

SALAMA

Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK) has been focused on a chee­tah pop­u­la­tion 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 led 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. Cheetah Field Officers collect the data, distribute the results and implement programmes in natural resource management and conflict mitigation. Results found annual live­stock losses by chee­tahs dou­bled from 2005 to 2008, and human-related mor­tal­ity of 22 chee­tahs (2005−09) threat­ens this population. The population of cheetahs between 2013 and 2014 is reduced to a maximum of five and a minimum of zero.

Extending our studies into the Athi-Kapiti region where between 14 and 25 cheetahs are regularly seen, we are further understanding the coping mechanisms of cheetahs when they are threatened by increased settlement.

SAMBURU

In Samburu in north­ern Kenya lit­tle is known about the chee­tah pop­u­la­tion. The Meibae Conservancy is pas­toral range­land (ca. 350km2) with community conservation under the Northern Rangeland Trust. 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 2009 using community Cheetah Field Officers. Information collected in Samburu follow the model of the Salama region with adaptations to the pastoral culture. Field officers work in five blocks covering over 2/3’s of the entire conservation area. Cheetah estimates range between 20 and 50 depending on the time of year and the weather conditions.

 WAJIR

The Wajir District is the second largest in Kenya covering an area of 56,000 km2. Wajir County is 100% arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) with an average annual rainfall of 280 mm. Traditionally, the people of Wajir move to semi-permanent water points during the dry season, but scatter in search of grazing areas during the rains. During severe droughts, they would migrate to rivers in Garissa and Mandera Counties, or move over the border of Somalia to access the Juba River. The frequency of migration is determined by various factors including: drought, insecurity, size of household, alternative sources of income and size of livestock herds (Omosa 2005). During the wet season, livestock are taken to natural water sources (pans, ponds and seasonal rivers) that are accessed free of charge. But in modern times water is often obtained from boreholes where people pay for the water and must follow established rules and regulations, adding to interpersonal conflict situations. We estimated between 90 and 200 cheetahs to live in the entire district, but recent human conflict issues create greater hardships and decrease conservation of the land. Proposed research in this area will increase security through trained rangers and conservation planning.

 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.

 NATIONAL SURVEY USING DETECTION DOGS

ACK will conduct a national survey of cheetah presence over 2-3 years (2-16-2018) in collaboration with KWS. Scat detection dogs will identify samples that will be used to determine which populations breed with each other and where conservation efforts can prevent population isolation. Increasing human settlement and land-use changes are recognized as the leading threat to cheetah population stability.

 This is the first study in Kenya to use scat analysis as a non- invasive tool for cheetah conservation efforts. To be able to conserve and save the declining cheetah population, we must understand cheetah’s habitats, prey preference, and health through hormone and disease analysis. Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK) will use a detection dog for cheetah scat collection and will work with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for analysis. In comparison with other scat collection methods, a detection dog for scat collection is a better method as it is faster and more accurate.

 A scat detection dog will identify and aid in collection of fresh cheetah fecal samples (scat) throughout Kenya during our national survey. Scat will be analyzed for studies in stress hormone, prey selection, and genetics. One result will be the creation of a map of genetic corridors and other indicators that will assist KWS in prioritizing vital areas to monitor and preserve stable cheetah populations.

 Scat detection dogs will improve efficiency of future studies involving fecal material and individual identification from scats. The model will be used in mapping other predator populations and habitats using non-invasive techniques. Susan Kuria, DVM will lead the detection dog program by training detection dogs and Kenyan handlers to accompany a field team in the national survey Snare detection dogs will also be a part of the long-term program, to reduce poaching through early and efficient detection of traps set for bush-meat and illegal animal trade.. Master's and PhD students from the University of Nairobi will assist us in scat analysis at the new KWS forensic laboratory.

 

Support our work

ACK needs your help to support our scouts and the community so we can accomplish our goal of conservation of the cheetahs in Kenya. With your help we can continue our research and conversation activities.

  • Student/Teacher Activity Book - $10 each
  • Plant 10 Trees - $20 
  • Support a School Visit - $30 
  • Field gear for Scouts - $50 
  • Sponsor Detection Dog - $100/month 
  • Sponsor Field Officer/month - $200/month
  • Field Monitoring Equipment - $500

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