The Status of the Cheetan in Kenya
Our first case study, in August 2002, involved 3 young males who were causing problems in the Machakos Wildlife Forum, about 100 km southeast of Nairobi. At first the cheetah were seen on the Stanely and Son Ranch, but had caused no problems. We agreed to use the Ranch staff to continue reporting sightings from their daily game monitoring checks. We visited the Stanley Ranch to track sightings and to speak with the members of the neighbouring Kiu Ranching (to the west). Unfortunately, over the next few weeks, the boys went naughty and took 13 goats and sheep from 4 different farmers in less than a week. David, Jane and Robin Stanley were concerned that the cheetah taking refuge on their property were in danger of being killed. CCF and KWS attempted to trap the cheetah using the lure of a live goat, in the same way that many cheetah are caught in Namibia. During the 6 days that CCF and KWS were on the Stanely farm, the cheetah moved to the northwest, away from the area where they had been causing problems. It is unknown whether these cheetah moved away or if they were killed as there were varying reports from with in the community. While it is sad to think that 3 cheetah may have been killed, it is understandable that the people in this community needed to take action when such a large number of livestock had been killed.
In the end of March 2003 the Stanleys again called CCF to report sightings of cheetah. At first they thought it could be the same 3 males. However, spoor and additional sightings revealed that this was a different group - a mother with 3-4 juveniles. CCF visited the farm and confirmed the spoor of an adult and several cubs. A few days later there were reports of goats and sheep being killed on neighbouring Kima Ranch, to the south. CCF returned to the area to assist KWS in another trapping attempt. This time 2 traps with live bait were set. At the time of this writing it appears that there are two groups of cheetah in this area; a group of 3, and a mother with 3-5 juveniles. CCF and KWS will continue working together with the community to resolve this problem while increasing awareness of the plight of the cheetah in Kenya. Should trapping the cheetah be successful, KWS has several options for where the cheetah can be moved and monitored. If problems continue to occur and the trapping is unsuccessful additional staff will be placed in the area.
The questions posed in the investigations of the cheetah south of Nairobi are "where have these cheetah come from?" and "Where will they go?" The area of land between the Nairobi Park, the Amboselie and Tsavo Parks is vast and rugged, over 500,000 acres. It has a mixture of subdivided and heavily populated land, industrial areas, flower and agricultural properties and commercial farming. There are some tourism activities on private land in the region, but it is mainly subsistence and commercial ranching, with a mixture of game ranching for sustainable utilization through cropping of some game species. In comparison to the Nakuru region evaluated in 2002, this area has pockets of dense population, but much more open area in between. It is dispersal for the 3 above-mentioned parks and has in the past had an abundance of wildlife. As in the Nakuru area, the subdivision and increased population in recent years means an increased problem with poaching and over utilization.
In early March 2003, CCF was called to assist a local vet in treating an injured resident cheetah on Kongoni Game Sanctuary, about 140 km northwest of Nairobi (only about 40 km from our base on Delamere Estates). The old injuries to this male cheetah were infected and necrotic. The wear and yellow color of the teeth suggested that this cheetah was VERY old - perhaps 12-14 years. He and another male, assumed to be his brother had been resident to this 5000 acre enclosed sanctuary for about 5 years. These two brothers were referred to as the 'Terrorists' as they frequently harassed the adult cheetah who had been hand-raised as an orphan by Kongoni staff. The injured cheetah was weak and anaemic. Although he recovered from anaesthesia, the old cheetah was too weak to recover fully. He died a few days later. The whereabouts of his brother is still unknown. In this case, the 'Terrorists' were the major predators on the enclosed sanctuary. Should the problem cheetah in the south be caught, it could be a viable solution to move them to Kongoni where they can be monitored and where small game is plentiful.
CCF Kenya continues to develop its education program in the Nakuru region. We visited 12 primary and 3 secondary schools - over 800 kids. The response has been encouraging - both students and teachers ask many questions and pledge their support by sharing their knowledge with family, neighbors and friends. Our target has been through existing Environmental clubs as a supplement to their current activities. East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS) and Jomo Kenyatta Foundation have assisted with funding and printing of the activity pages developed by the CCF Kenya staff. Friends of Conservation (FOC) and KWS are involved in the development of the education activities and will assist in distributing information. CCF has also piggy-backed onto a tourism awareness campaign with FOC.
KWS continues to monitor the cheetah in the Masai Mara. In this year they plan to conduct genetic testing on the Mara cheetah now that they have an idea of the distribution within the Park. CCF has assisted in developing protocols for the biomedical sampling to ensure our methodologies are consistent. The first test of our protocol was in conducting a necropsy on a cheetah who was hit by a car near Tsavo West park. This young cheetah, 8-9 months, was one of 3 cubs seen crossing the road in the early morning just before CCF staff passed by. Although ridden with ticks and very thin, this cheetah seemed quite healthy.
By working together on case reports and in developing protocol for biomedical collection, CCF and KWS are laying the ground work for long term monitoring of cheetah within the park and in farmland regions. The only way to know for sure where these cheetah range is through radio telemetry. Reports to KWS and CCF on current sightings aid in determining the best location for long term monitoring. A cooperative partnership will ensure good data collection and will allow us to apply for future funding in collaborative projects.
by Mary Wykstra