THE SAHARAN CHEETAH

with Sarah Durant (ZSL -Zoological Society of London - Institute of Zoology) | February 11, 2016 - 16h00 | CIBIO-InBIO, Vairão, Portugal

 

Biodiversity hotspots attract considerable conservation attention. However, deserts are rarely viewed as conservation priorities, due to their relatively low productivity, yet these systems are home to unique species, adapted to harsh and highly variable environments. The world’s largest tropical desert, the Sahara, has suffered a catastrophic decline in megafauna. Of 14 large vertebrates historically present in the region, four are now extinct in the wild, including the iconic scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), while the majority has disappeared from more than 90% of their Saharan range. The critically endangered Saharan cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) is one of the few large carnivores still surviving in the region. Camera trap surveys across a 2,551km2 grid in Ahaggar Cultural Park, south central Algeria resulted in 32 records of Saharan cheetah resulting in an estimated density of 0.23/1,000km2. Saharan cheetah were more nocturnal, more wide-ranging, and occurred at lower densities relative to cheetah in savannah environments. We used our results to make recommendations for future survey design. The Saharan cheetah could be used as a flagship species to ‘market’ the Saharan landscape at a sufficiently large scale to help reverse the historical neglect of threatened Saharan biodiversity.

 

Sarah Durant heads the People, Wildlife and Ecosystems theme in the Institute of Zoology at the Zoological Society of London. She is both a conservation scientist and practitioner, with a focus on carnivore conservation, biodiversity monitoring, human wildlife conflict and landscape conservation. She has a long term affiliation with the Wildlife Conservation Society, and she sits on National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative Committee and Panthera’s Scientific Council. She has been running the Serengeti Cheetah Project since 1991, and has spent many years living in the Serengeti National Park studying the ecology of cheetah. She established the Tanzania Carnivore Program in 2002, and the Range-Wide Conservation Program (RWCP) for Cheetah and African Wild Dog in 2007. She obtained both her BA and her PhD from the University of Cambridge.

 

[Group Leader: José Brito, Biodiversity of Deserts and Arid Regions]