The Effect of Drought on Cheetah Populations
When a land loses its economic or biological productivity to drought, it often results in land degradation. Land degradation contributes to prolonged desertification, resulting in the extended drought we are currently experiencing in my area. Humans, livestock, and wildlife suffer from a lack of water and food. Livelihoods are compromised as livestock grow weak, making their survival a risky venture as they become easy targets for hungry predators who are known to modify their behavior to suit the situation. Hyenas, for example, were known to be nighttime hunters, but recently in my community, they have been active during the day in search of food. During such difficult moments grazing options for herders’ livestock become limited. Therefore, they are only left with grazing around the thick and dense bushes which are home to cheetahs and many other predators.
If livestock becomes a predator’s target, human-wildlife conflict can arise. Sometimes herders retaliate for losing their livestock not only to cheetahs but to other predators too. Losing a cheetah to conflict is a threat to their population and that of the ecosystem. With only about 1200 cheetahs in Kenya, the impact of this drought will not only affect the community's tolerance to the presence of cheetahs in the area but might also impact cheetah’s choice of preferred prey.
In my role as a field officer at ACK, I assist with conflict mitigation as a first responder to help reduce livestock losses through ongoing programs. The programs include the deterrent lights project and using the Human- Carnivore Conflict Toolbox to ensure that livelihoods are not compromised amidst the prolonged drought.