Did you know…
…that Namibia probably has the largest cheetah population in the world?
Altogether, there are not many cheetahs left on earth. The latest numbers on population size of this big cat were published by the journal PNAS in 2016. Of the 7100 cheetahs living worldwide, all of them – apart from about 40 animals in Asia – are found in Africa. Around 2300 cheetahs live in eastern Africa, but there are about 4000 animals in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe in southern Africa. A brand new study published in December 2017 has now estimated that the cheetah population in these four countries will only be around 3600 animals. However, Namibia is home to more than half of the area of these four countries where cheetahs live in the wild. Based on this, an estimated 2000 animals could be found in Namibia, making it the largest free-living cheetah population in the world.
The special thing about this is that over 80% of these cheetahs are living on commercial cattle farms, thus outside of protected reserves. One of the reasons for this unusual fact is that cheetahs, in contrast to competing stronger predators such as spotted hyenas, lions or leopards, are quite dainty. Their entire physique is designed for high speed and agility. Similar to a super sports car, they can reach a top speed of over 110 km/h in about 3 seconds. This makes them the fastest land mammal on earth. In national parks such as the Serengeti or Etosha, however, they often have to cede their prey to stronger competitors such as lions or hyenas, and frequently their offspring are also killed by the larger predators.
On the Namibian farms, however, stronger predators such as lions have been largely eliminated, with the exception of leopards, so that they are relatively safe habitats for cheetahs. Moreover, most farms have dams and other permanent water sources that attract prey animals such as antelopes. But the cheetahs have to be on their guard here too, because the farmers themselves often see them as a threat to their young livestock. Hence, it is not uncommon for them to be shot. Fortunately, however, with the emergence of commercial conservancies and flourishing tourism in Namibia, there is an increasing awareness among farmers that cheetahs also have a high idealistic value as a so-called flagship species. Cheetahs as particularly elegant and beautiful big cats are therefore also regarded as a figurehead for nature conservation and eco-tourism. Last but not least, research also supports this idea by trying to better understand the cheetahs’ behaviour. The Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research runs a showcase project in Namibia, whose staff has been investigating more than 300 free-living cheetahs since 2002. This data set is unique in big cat research and important, because according to a guiding principle in nature conservation, we will protect only what we know.
Welcome to NAMIBIA-ECO-TOURS. Due to my studies in Namibia and interest in dryland ecology, I have known this exceptionally beautiful country for more than 20 years now. I invite you to an exclusive tour through Namibia.