When Namibian farmers avoided cheetah ‘hubs’ they reduced livestock losses by 86%

NEWS AND COMMENT: This is a common sense and effective approach to substantially reducing the problem of cheetahs killing livestock in Namibia. It’s the first time I’ve seen this approach taken. Conflict between predators like the cheetah and farmers is a constant problem in Africa and it leads to the death of the predator because the farmers retaliate to protect their livestock so they poison or kill the cheetah in anyway they can. It’s about protecting their livelihood, so we can understand the attitude.

Cheetah hangout - cheetah hub
Cheetah hangout – cheetah hub. Camera trap photograph: Leibniz-IZW Cheetah Research Project via Associated Press
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A study published on December 7, 2020 called Communication hubs of an asocial cat are the source of a human-carnival conflict and a carnivore conflict and key to its solution has reported that if farmers know where cheetahs congregate in what the researchers describe as “hubs” they can avoid them and farm their livestock elsewhere. When this happens the cheetahs prey on animals other than livestock and they found that livestock losses were reduced by 86%. It is a brilliant result.

It sounds obvious so it is somewhat surprising that it has not been tackled extensively before. I think perhaps the novelty of this study carried out by thirteen researchers and published on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences of the United States Of America is that they discovered that cheetahs lived in hubs “separated by a surrounding matrix”. I believe that this means that these hubs are surrounded by connecting traffic of cheetahs from other hubs and non-territorial cheetah males and females for information exchange.

Often cheetahs which kill livestock are called “problem individuals” but the researchers have decided that the problem is not with individuals but with specific areas which they describe as “problem areas”. What they mean is that those areas where there are groups of cheetahs and what the author of an article on the Los Angeles Times website describes as “cheetah hangouts”.

Over a long period (2007-2018), the researchers, from Germany and Slovenia, studied 106 cheetahs wearing GPS collars which allowed them to be accurately tracked. Their objective was to learn new insights about the social structure of cheetahs. The scientists call this “new insights into the socio-spatial organisation of this species”. The objective: to find a solution to farmer-cheetah conflicts.

Namibia might be described as the home of the African cheetah as there are more cheetahs in the country than any other on Earth. About one third of the entire population of cheetahs currently live in Namibia. The country is described as the “Cheetah Capital of the World”. The conservationists of Namibia are engaged in long-term conservation of this endangered species of highly popular cat and the fastest land animal.


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