CCF STATEMENT ON INDIA SUPREME COURT REPORTS
Contact: Dr. Laurie Marker – +264 81124 7887 (Namibia)
Dr. Bruce Brewer – +264 811247799 (Namibia)
Patricia Tricorache – +1-305-766-8229 (USA)
FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CHEETAH CONSERVATION FUND COMMENTS ON STAY OF CHEETAH RE-INTRODUCTION BY INDIA SUPREME COURT
(16 May 2012) – Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, issued the following statement regarding the Indian Supreme Court’s staying the cheetah re-introduction project in India: “CCF is not a part of any of the negotiations or decisions being made on the Indian side and therefore we can only continue to provide advice and support, as we have thus far.”
The plan by the Indian government, and headed by Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh, who served as Indian Government’s first Director of Wildlife and is now Chairman of the Wild Trust of India (WTI), would reintroduce cheetahs in stages over the next decade. To this effect, a team of experts including representatives from the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), Cheetah OutReach, the IUCN’s Cat Specialist Group, Re-introduction Specialist Group and Veterinary Specialist Group, and Oxford University’s WILDCRU, met in 2009 with Indian authorities and forestry directors from various regions.
A report of these meetings concluded that “With the establishment of a network of protected areas, implementation of effective wildlife legislation and a dramatic change in the conservation ethos and awareness in the country inter alia, the original cause for the extinction of the cheetah in India has been adequately addressed.”
Careful consideration of the genetics of the Asiatic cheetah and its only remaining population found in Iran (less that 100) led to the conclusion that the cheetahs participating in this project should be imported from southern Africa, where the largest populations of wild cheetah still exist. Furthermore, the fact that the Asiatic and African cheetahs are genetically so similar according to cat specialists including world renowned geneticist Dr. Stephen O’Brien, and that there are no living Indian cheetahs, there is no concern about mixing populations.
Field inspections by the Indian research team determined that the most viable release area for the first re-introduction is the Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, a 6,800 square kilometre (2,625 square mile) reserve in central India. The sanctuary was chosen as it is home to many species, including a variety of antelope, deer, wolves, and leopards. The absence of lions, the cheetah’s non-agressive nature, and work already done with the communities were also decisive factors. By returning cheetahs to a grasslands ecosystem where they used to thrive, the historic evolutionary balance would be restored and locally over-abundant prey species would be regulated; therefore a top-down effect of a large predator would enhance and maintain the diversity in lower trophic levels of the ecosystem, as explained in the group’s report.
In an advisory capacity, and in consultation with the re-introduction team, CCF has been working with the WTI and India’s authorities to discuss the best strategies for this re-introduction and providing its expertise based on proven successful programmes implemented in Namibia and other areas of Africa.
CCF believes that the project is sustainable to the extent that all recommendations made by the international consultants and Indian research teams are followed, and these include necessary infrastructure changes as well as community involvement and education. CCF advises that local communities be counselled in living harmoniously with wildlife, particularly predators, through training and communications programmes. To this effect, CCF emphasised the success of the conservancies in Namibia –which have become a model in conservation management where collaborative partnerships of neighbouring communities work together to develop and implement sustainable livestock and wildlife management systems. Namibian community conservation programmes have contributed enormously to integrated conservation programmes that provide benefits back to the communities involved as conservation partners, in particular, through the development of different techniques for livestock farming in a predator-friendly (non-lethal) way, and where integrated systems encourage good livestock and wildlife management. In addition, sustainable tourism has been encouraged so that jobs and business opportunities for the local people has been created.
Conservation biologists from India have attended several of CCF’s international courses in Cheetah Conservation Biology, and in Integrated Livestock, Wildlife, and Predator Management. These courses focus on capacity building and mitigating conflict between people and wildlife, with a special emphasis on the cheetah. Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh and colleagues have visited CCF in Namibia.
With regards to the cheetahs that may be slated for re-introduction, CCF will provide its expertise with their selection as it has developed a proven protocol for re-introducing wild-caught cheetahs that allows the success of such a proposed re-introduction programme. To date, CCF has successfully re-wilded cheetah in two regions in Namibia, and has re-stocked cheetah populations in the Umfolozi National Park and Phinda, both in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Lessons learned from these successes will assist local Indian NGOs with the re-introduction. In addition, CCF has been asked to provide experienced staff to train local rangers and WTI researchers in cheetah monitoring and behaviour.
Any cheetahs selected for the project will require permits from both the importing and exporting governments, as well as from Convention of International Trade for Endangered Species (CITES).
Raubtierhaltung streng geregelt
Problemtiere töten, freilassen oder an Rehabilitationszentren geben und sterilisieren
Große Raubtiere dürfen nicht mehr in kleinen Käfigen gehalten werden, um Touristen anzulocken. Diese und andere Verordnungen sind jetzt als Teil des bestehenden Gesetzes zur Raubtierhaltung mit der Veröffentlichung im Amtsblatt rechtskräftig geworden. Somit gelten künftig strenge Kontrollen.
Geparde werden oft an sogenannten Spielbäumen gefangen und ein dort gefangenes Tier oft tagelang in der Kastenfalle gelassen, um weitere Artgenossen anzulocken und zu fangen.
Windhoek – Zahlreiche ministerielle Bestimmungen wurden jahrelang von Lodges, Gästefarmen und sogenannten Rehabilitationszentren ignoriert. Sobald das Umweltministerium gegen Verstöße vorgehen wollte, wurden die Klagen zurückgewiesen, da die Bestimmungen keine Gesetzeskraft hatten. Das hat sich nun geändert. „In Zukunft müssen sich Halter von Raubtieren an das Gesetz halten und werden jährlich Inspektionen durchgeführt, um zu versichern, dass die Haltungsbedingungen dafür sorgen, dass die Tiere gesund sind und ausreichend Auslauf haben“, sagte Dr. Ortwin Aschenborn, Tierarzt des Etoscha-Nationalparks und Verantwortlicher für Raubtierangelegenheiten im Ministerium für Umwelt und Tourismus, auf AZ-Nachfrage. Im Amtsblatt Nr. 4911 vom 29. März 2012 wurden die Verordnungen zur Haltung von großen Raubtieren in Gefangenschaft publiziert.
Ein Leopardenmännchen in der Kastenfalle. Dieses Tier hatte Glück, denn es war mit einem Halsband markiert, erhielt einen Peilsender und wurde auf einer Farm wieder freigelassen.
Als große Raubtiere gelten Löwe, Leopard, Gepard, Braune Hyäne, Tüpfelhyäne und Wilder Hund – sie alle sind in Namibia als geschützte Wildarten klassifiziert. Einige Arten sind im Anhang I oder II des Washingtoner Artenschutzabkommens (CITES) aufgeführt. Dies bedeutet, dass diese Arten vom Aussterben bedroht sind und international der Handel mit diesen Tieren oder deren Produkten verboten oder nur unter strengen Auflagen möglich ist. „Leopard und Gepard fallen unter den CITES-Anhang I, Löwe und Wilder Hund werden unter Anhang II aufgeführt“, so Aschenborn.
In Zukunft dürfe kein Raubtier aus der Wildnis in Gefangenschaft gehalten werden, außer wenn dieses mit der Erlaubnis des Umweltministers einem registrierten Rehabilitationszentrum zugesprochen wurde. Überdies dürfe kein Raubtier ohne Zustimmung des Ministers freigelassen werden. Auch für die Verlegung eines großen Raubtieres von einem Gehege in ein anderes sei in Zukunft eine Erlaubnis nötig. Jährlich müssten große, in Gefangenschaft gehaltene Raubtiere gegen Tollwut geimpft und von einem Veterinär untersucht werden. Weibliche Tiere müssten sterilisiert sein. Kein in Gefangenschaft gehaltenes Tier dürfe getötet werden, wenn keine Erlaubnis von höchster Stelle vorliegt. Auch dürften weder Krallen noch Reißzähne oder Stimmbänder entfernt werden.
Raubtiere wie Löwen dürfen nur in Gefangenschaft gehalten werden, wenn sie sterilisiert wurden und nicht Träger vom sogenannten Katzen-Aids (FIV) sind
Farmer, die Raubtiere in Kastenfallen fangen, müssen diese Tiere laut Gesetz entweder sofort freilassen oder sofort töten oder binnen drei Tagen ein Rehabilitationszentrum informieren und die Tiere abholen lassen. Von Farmern getötete Raubtiere müssen einem schon seit Jahren bestehenden Gesetz nach binnen zehn Tagen der Naturschutzbehörde gemeldet werden. Von nun an sind auch die Rehabilitationszentren strengen Auflagen unterworfen; dort muss beispielsweise ein Tierarzt angestellt sein. Erwachsene Tiere dürften in diesen Zentren höchstens drei Monate und Jungtiere höchstens 18 Monate gehalten werden. „Danach müssen sie entweder an der gleichen Stelle, an der sie gefangen wurden, wieder ausgesetzt oder die Tiere müssen sterilisiert und dem Gesetz entsprechend in Gefangenschaft gehalten werden“, erklärte Aschenborn. Für jedes Tier müsse mindestens ein Hektar Fläche vorhanden und die Gehege mit einem hohen Elektrozaun umgeben sein. Wer Raubtiere für touristische Zwecke in Gefangenschaft hält, müsse jetzt dafür sorgen, dass kein Kontakt zwischen Besuchern und Raubtieren stattfinden kann.
The world’s fastest land animal, the sleek and long-legged cheetah, is running its race for survival. Once a common animal found on five continents, the cheetah is now an Endangered Species.
Loss of habitat, conflict with humans and its own loss of genetic variation are the main threats facing the cheetah today.
The cheetah is a top-of-the-line predator which needs large expanses of land to survive, but with changes in land use and habitat pressures, such as bush encroachment, this area is becoming smaller and smaller. Unfortunately, captive breeding efforts have not proven meaningful to the cheetah’s hopes of survival.
Cheetahs can reach speeds of over 110 km/h, but are extremely clumsy fighters. The result is that although the cheetahs are the best hunters in Africa, they lose much of their prey to the more aggressive predators, such as lions and hyenas that chase them away and steal their food.
Females define the cheetahs’ unusual social order. Except when raising cubs, they are loners, and they select their mating partners. Males meanwhile, form coalitions of siblings that hunt together and may remain together for life. In Namibia, males range over an area of about 1400 square km, while females travel farther—more than 2400 square km. Mothers have litters of up to six blind and helpless cubs. Perhaps to hide those from predators, cheetah mothers move their cubs to different dens every few days for the first six weeks of life (which makes tracking growing cubs difficult for researchers). Cheetah females reach maturity and leave the family when they are about 2 years old. No one knows for sure how long they survive in the wild; the animals live between 8 and 12 years in captivity.
The largest population of cheetahs is in Namibia, a country that is now growing more independent and democratic. With the country’s expansion, there was a drastic decline of the cheetah population in the 1980s, when the population was halved in a 10-year period, leaving an estimated population of less than 2.500 animals.
At the beginning of the 1990s, when the Cheetah Conservation Fund – CCF began its campaigns with the farming community, a gradual change has occurred within Namibia. CCF’s research has shown that most recently farmers have more tolerance for cheetahs and are killing less. Those that are being killed are linked to livestock losses. More frequently farmers are calling the CCF to help them.
Dr. Laurie Marker is Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a non-profit foundation she built from scratch that has become the template for a new, visionary approach to wildlife management. Without her, the fleet-footed predators of Africa’s bush country would likely be closer to extinction. Even now they are not safe. They have a low fertility rate, a high incidence of birth defects and weak immune systems.
Inbreeding is a major threat for the species
Starting in 1980, researchers began to examine the cheetah’s reproductive characteristics and conduct the first-ever studies of cheetah DNA. Semen samples revealed shockingly low sperm counts—about 10 percent of the norm for other felines. And there were huge numbers of malformed sperm—about 70 percent in each sample. This explains the animals’ low fertility.
Research on blood enzymes of a larger number of cheetahs has shown that they were all alike. Studies on their genome confirmed that they were virtual clones, which is a proof that they are catastrophically inbred. This is very disturbing as it means that also their immune systems are so similar that almost every cheetah in the world has the same vulnerability to the same diseases.
Cheetahs have passed through a population “bottleneck” about 12000 years ago. Some apocalyptic event had wiped out all but a few animals that then interbred, with disastrous consequences for the animal’s gene pool. The obvious culprit was the onset of the last ice age, a cold snap that coincided with the extinction of sabre-toothed cats, mastodons and other large prehistoric mammals. Fossil evidence shows that cheetahs evolved in North America about 8.5 million years ago and then spread throughout Asia, India, Europe and Africa; the modern species appeared about 200000 years ago. The bottleneck wiped out all of North America’s animals.
Researchers now know that the cheetah will not be a robust, vigorous species anytime in the foreseeable future and that saving the animals requires a combination of strategies. Protecting and studying them in the wild is one approach, while at the same time scientists are refining techniques to breed them in captivity, hoping to build an insurance policy for the wild population. The work continues today at the new Cheetah Science Facility in Front Royal, Virginia, USA.
In Namibia, 95 % of cheetahs live on territory owned by ranchers. When Dr Marker first got there, ranchers typically called cheetah “vermin” and killed about 600 every year. Dr Marker’s conservation plan was simple. She consistently spoke with the farmers about their experiences and about the problems they thought cheetahs were causing. She shared her expertise as it grew. Cheetahs could not kill full-grown cattle, she explained, so ranchers might want to focus on protecting newborn calves. Cheetahs would rather eat wild game than risk an encounter with humans. The best ranches, Dr Marker told the farmers, kept records for each animal, used herdsmen to spot cows ready to calve, and then brought them into an enclosure until they did so.
With time, many of the ranchers have stopped killing cheetahs and instead bring those they have trapped to the CCF, who take blood and semen samples from the animals, check their age and health, tag and release them. The CCF has also established a sanctuary for motherless cubs which currently houses 54 orphan cheetahs.
Dr Marker’s observations of cheetah behaviour constitute most of what we know about them. She was the first to understand that females are the ones that select mates—a major reason why captive breeding had such a poor record. She also learned that if two or more females occupy the same space, they may suppress each other’s reproductive hormones. Today, breeders isolate females and let them choose mates from among the available males.
The CCF organises integrated local education programs. In 1990, to help the African shepherds and goatherds, Dr Marker consulted evolutionary biologist Ray Copping who recommended using guard dogs against the incursion of cheetahs. The Anatolian shepherd dog has proven to be an efficient help in keeping cheetahs away from sheep and goat herds. Over the years the CCF has given away 280 Anatolian shepherd puppies to ranches and communes all over the country.
The CCF has now a satellite program in Kenya, assists cheetah conservation efforts in Algeria and Iran, trains farmers in Botswana and breeds dogs in South Africa.
Today the world cheetah population stands at about 12500 animals in 26 countries. This is the lowest point in probably 9000 years. Nevertheless, the CCF campaigns have shown that conservation can give positive results even with very vulnerable and inbred species like the cheetah.
For more information, visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund Website
Cari Amici, la sera prima di partire dalla Namibia sono stata caricata a forza in auto, e via…censimento notturno! E dopo pochi giorni, ecco che Niki, la nostra mentore-guida, pubblica questo aggiornamento…C’ero anch’io!!!
18 APRILE 2012
FRIDAY, MAY 04, 2012
On 18th April, CCF released a coalition of four male cheetahs into a soft release camp for them to enhance survival behaviour before being released into the wild
Day 2 of the Scientist’s re-wilding: 19 April 2012
The four males were found quite close to their release site. As the sun came through the densely covered bushes, the cheetahs began to move. At one resting spot, an oblivious female duiker came within 20 m of the coalition. One by one, they became alert of the animal as the duiker drew nearer. Suddenly, Fossey sprinted towards the female in a quick 80 m chase, although unfortunately the hunt was unsuccessful. Later on, the males made a large circle around the release sight, where Fossey and Mendel were seen marking large-trunked Boscia trees, scratching their bases. All four males were then seen hunting an unknown prey species (possibly warthog). Afterwards they came to the water hole, where Fossey and Mendel started to drink. It was a relief that we did not have to worry about them finding water anymore. In the evening, we followed them westerly towards the tumbling sun: an overly successful second day.
Day 3: 20 April 2012
Within minutes of an early start to the morning, three of the four males had Rachel and I running through the bush after them. A hunt led by Mendel, Livingstone and Darwin led us to an amazing sight: Livingstone’s body was pressed tightly between the horns of a massive adult oryx; Darwin was forcefully biting the throat in a proper strangulation hold; Mendel, tripping the back legs of the oryx, constantly biting its hindquarters. The coalition was successfully hunting in cooperation on their third day! Eventually the oryx thrashed the males off one at a time. After 40 minutes of resting, the oryx remained laying in shock. Suddenly the missing Fossey miraculously appeared, silently trotting out of the bush headed directly towards the weakened oryx. His hunt attempt was not the best, as the prey instantly stood up and scared Fossey off. Finally all the cheetahs retreated and the oryx ran away virtually unharmed. The rest of the day the males rested, as it seemed the hunt aspirated all their energy. The two smallest males (Livingstone and Darwin) seemed to be showing the most promising behaviours when it comes to hunting thus far.
Day 4 & 5: 21 & 22 April 2012
Within seconds of finding the coalition, Rachel and I observed the foursome eating away at an adult zebra carcass. Spots consuming stripes, the cheetahs ate away at the hindquarters of their massive kill. Upon further inspection of the zebra, we noticed that there was no sign of a proper neck bite, and later in the day, Dr Laurie Marker paid us a visit and noticed that the zebra’s back left leg was severely injured. These males may have stumbled upon a freshly dead, or slowly dying zebra and instantly began to feast. In the late afternoon a large grouping of giraffes inquisitively watched as the males gorged themselves. The giraffes slowly approached the spectacle and inched closer and closer. The cheetahs were vigilant of these towering mammals, but never strayed from their meal.
Throughout the following day and night the coalition was observed constantly eating the zebra. They ate rather peacefully, but an occasional growl and cheek-bite would occur. One of the males popped the bloated stomach of the carcass, which made a deflating balloon-like sound scaring all of them running. Confused by the loud sound, they gradually made their way back. Deflating the gaseous stomach allowed for easier access to open new areas, as the skin was not as tightly pressed anymore. Darwin and Livingstone were also observed covering the carcass with dead grasses as soon as the stomach popped, masking the emerging putrid odor.
Day 6: 23 April 2012
The coalition was on the move throughout the day, with Fossey, as usual, leading the way. They were marking unchartered territories by spraying and scratching trunks of Boscia trees. They came across warthogs on a road but made no attempt to hunt. By the afternoon monitoring session, Rachel and I found the boys nearly four kilometers from their previously observed spot this morning. They continued to the night following the road, uncovering the unfamiliar corners of Bellebenno game camp. Of all the releases I have done, these males have chartered the longest distances in their first week. With great amounts of skepticism concerning their first meal/kill, we are hoping that they will be able to make another one in the following days.
Day 7: 24 April 2012
This was a day filled with walking, marking and hunting! The Scientists were on the move again, walking virtually a half of Bellebenno’s 4,000 has in one day! It was not until the afternoon when a proper hunt took place. The males emerged from a mid-day’s rest and began walking down the road to our captive females’ pens. Suddenly, all four cheetahs ran, and soon the death cries of an oryx were heard. Rachel and I sprinted upon a sight where Fossey was attempting to take down a sub-adult male oryx. Darwin was biting and successfully opening the thrashing antelope and Livingstone guarded the potential prey victim from us. After nearly five minutes of struggling to get a proper neck-bite on the oryx, Fossey gave up. In stepped Darwin (one of the smallest males), who took down the oryx and followed with a proper strangulation hold killing the oryx quickly. It was a conquering feat in the re-wilding of these males, proving their ability and strength in hunting; they spent the rest of the day and evening indulging on their well deserved, first kill.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the re-wilding project soon!
All the best,
Head of Cheetah Reintroductions