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					                      Species at Risk
                      Knowing Wildlife and the Impact of
                      Tourism on Cheetahs
                      Rosie Coggins




Common and Scientific names                              Habitat and Range Distribution
Kingdom: Animalia                                       Cheetah’s habitats range from dry savannah to
Phylum: Chordata                                        tropical and subtropical shrublands, and from tem-
Class: Mammalia                                         perate, tropical and subtropical grasslands to hot
Order: Carnivora                                        and temperate deserts (IUCN, 2004).
Family: Felidae                                             Cheetahs have a relatively wide distribution
Genus: Acinonyx                                         throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including coun-
Species: jubatus (IUCN, 2004)                           tries such as Algeria, Niger, Kenya and Namibia;
Sub Species: Acinonyx jubatus hecki, Acinonyx ju-       as well as the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah
batus jubatus, Acinonyx jubatus raineyi, Acinonyx ju-   (Acinonyx jubatus ssp. venaticus) that now survives
batus ngorongorensis, Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii,    only in Iran (IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 2004).
Acinonyx jubatus fearsoni, Acinonyx jubatus venaticus   Numbers of the Asiatic cheetah are believed to be
(IUCN Cat Specialist Group, 2004).                      less than 60, with numbers of the sub-Saharan Af-
Common name: Cheetah (IUCN, 2004)                       rican cheetah estimated to be 9,000-12,000 (IUCN,
                                                        2004).
Natural History
Until 10,000 years ago, ‘cheetahs were common           Ecological Requirements
in North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe’ (Uni-       Ecological requirements for the cheetah include
versity of Michigan Museum of Zoology, year un-         their prey base, which mainly consists of gazelles
known).                                                 (IUCN, 2004), as well as small to medium sized un-
    Around this time, it is thought that the chee-      gulates such as impalas.
tah genus narrowly escaped extinction and conse-            The habitat cheetahs occupy provides them
quently experienced a bo�leneck event, followed         with protection from larger predators and cover-
by a period of inbreeding (Merola, 1994), creat-        age during hunting.
ing the limited genetic variation that is seen today        As a semi-nomadic species (IUCN, 2004), chee-
among the sub-species of cheetah.                       tahs require relatively large areas for movement.
    Only the king cheetah exposes a vast variation      Female cheetahs can occupy home ranges of up to
in cheetah morphology, with longer fur on the back      800km squared within their roaming habitat (IUCN
of the head and neck and elongated spots that join      Cat Specialist Group, 2004).
to form irregular markings over the rest of its body.
However, this variation is caused by a recessive        Natural Predators
gene in the species, and is not another sub-species     Natural predators of cheetahs include the more suc-
of cheetah (University of Michigan Museum of zo-        cessful carnivores of African plains such as lions,
ology, year unknown).                                   leopards, hyenas, and even baboons, which usurp
    Cheetah numbers continue to decrease, in part       cheetah kills and prey on young cheetahs, contrib-
caused by the increase in human populations, con-       uting to their high infant mortality rate (IUCN Cat
tinuing conflict with local farmers (Marker et al,       Specialist Group, 2004).
2003), and decreasing natural habitat (University           Cheetah predators can include humans, espe-
of Michigan Museum of zoology, year unknown).           cially farmers and poachers, as decreasing cheetah
                                                        numbers have been the result of hunting for pelt,
162   Endangered Species UPDATE                                                             Vol. 22 No. 4 2005

				
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