Cheating The Cheetah!- Article by Gareth Jones
CHEATING THE CHEETAH – NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK’S CHEETAHS
As I looked over the plains not far from the Hyena dam in the Nairobi National Park, near the fence a line of a herd of Kongoni was feeding. To their left, a whitish shape appeared in the long grass. The shape disappeared and then reappeared, then after looking through the binoculars, my heart leapt!!…..it was a cheetah!!! I drove closer and had a sighting of this cheetah stalking and chasing a herd of Kongoni. If only this was now, but sadly it was in January 2012. The last cheetah cub sighting was in April 2012 between junction No4 and No5. YES! Cheetahs are the rarest cats in the Nairobi National Park. Ironically, the exact place where the cheetah chased the Kongoni, is now in the area of the current Southern bypass highway.
It is difficult to say how many cheetahs are still in the park, as there have only been sightings of a single cheetah in recent months. Years ago the park had a healthy population, sadly changes in their favourable environment caused them to disappear over a period of less than ten years. Cheetahs are fast, efficient hunters reaching speeds of close to 115kph. They are very sensitive to human developments and easily threatened by other large predators.
There is a fairly healthy population of more than twenty cheetahs south of the Nairobi National Park on the Athi-Kapiti plains. It would be very sad if Cheetahs are no longer residents of the Nairobi National Park. It is hoped by many that the Kenya Wildlife Services will find a way of re-introducing other cheetahs into the park, so that their future will not be a case of going, going, GONE?…..
A running cheetah is a fantastic moment of perfected motion, a blurred streak of graceful ferocity and created beauty. They threaten no man and kill only for food. The world’s fastest animal is under threat from man-made developments, predators and ecological change. Unfortunately, like all species in the world, cheetah populations have crashed over the past century. At the start of the 20th century, the global population was estimated at 100,000 in the wild. Less than 100 years later, the population was reduced to only 15,000, then sadly in the first decade of the 21st century, there were only 7,500; a 50 per cent reduction in global population. The most recent International Union for the Conservation of Nature report shows that there may be as few as 6,600 cheetahs remaining in only 29 populations in all of Africa. The Kenyan cheetah population is critical to the survival of cheetahs in the wild. It is
estimated between 800 and 1,200 adult cheetahs remain in Kenya, and that as much as 80% of the cheetah roam on private lands outside protected areas. The greatest threat for the remaining cheetahs is the rapid change of land use and their habitats, therefore being reduced.
In Kenya, there are a number of protected areas where it is still possible to see cheetahs in the wild. The Masai Mara conservation area has the highest density, followed by other areas like Laikipia, Ol Pejeta, Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, Amboseli National Park, Meru National Park, Nairobi National Park and the Athi Kapiti plains.
Yes, sadly it is so very true that the developments of mankind have indeed “cheated the cheetahs” of the land they used to roam. We hope and pray that there will be a high-level Kenyan government priority to save the cheetah, Such that their future will not be going, going, gone! rather, that their future will be going, going, onwards to surviving and thriving!