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Critically Endangered Saharan Cheetah Photographed in Algeria

© Farid Belbachir/ZSL/OPNA The first camera-trap photographs of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah in Algeria were released today. The Northwest African cheetah is found over the Sahara desert and savannas of North and West Africa, respectively, including Algeria, Niger, Mali, Benin, Burkina-Faso and Togo, the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a news statement. “The populations are very...

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© Farid Belbachir/ZSL/OPNA

The first camera-trap photographs of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah in Algeria were released today.

The Northwest African cheetah is found over the Sahara desert and savannas of North and West Africa, respectively, including Algeria, Niger, Mali, Benin, Burkina-Faso and Togo, the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a news statement. “The populations are very fragmented and small, with the biggest thought to be found in Algeria. The ongoing surveys in the region will also work with the local Tuareg pastoralist community to find out more about the ecology of the cheetah and identify threats to it,” the statement said.

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The survey was conducted by researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Office du Parc National de l’Ahaggar (OPNA), and the Université de Béjaïa in Algeria, with support from WCS and Panthera.

The photographs were taken as part of the first systematic camera trap survey across the central Sahara, covering an area of 1,081 square miles 2,800 (square kilometers).

“This is an incredibly rare and elusive subspecies of cheetah and current population estimates, which stand at less than 250 mature individuals, are based on guesswork,” said Farid Belbachir, who is implementing the field survey. “This study is helping us to turn a corner in our understanding, providing us with information about population numbers, movement and ecology,”

Overall, the survey identified four different Saharan cheetahs — a subspecies of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) — using spot patterns unique to each individual.

“The Saharan cheetah is critically endangered, yet virtually nothing is known about the population, so this new evidence, and the ongoing research work, is hugely significant,” said Sarah Durant, Zoological Society of London Senior Research Fellow.

“This first camera-trap confirmation of cheetahs in Algeria is a landmark success toward our efforts to save these big cats,” said James Deutsch, director of WCS-Africa. “Findings like these help us refine our conservation strategies for the cheetah across its entire range.”

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© Farid Belbachir/ZSL/OPNA

 

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