Researchers have confirmed that cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) have become essentially extinct in Cameroon. A three year study by the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University in the Netherlands found that the same factors that pushed cheetahs and African wild dogs to local extinction, have also left Cameroon’s other big predators hanging by a thread, including the lion, the leopard, and two species of hyena: the spotted and the striped.
According to the study habitat loss, poaching, a decline in prey, and retaliatory killing by game rangers are behind the local extinction of cheetahs and African wild dogs and the overall decline in big predators.
The researchers have hope that the African wild dog could be re-introduced given proper conservation measures, however since the cheetah is also gone from neighboring nations they see less hope that the cheetah will ever inhabit Cameroon again.
Africa has seen a large decline not only of its big and iconic predators, but of mammals altogether. A recent study found that African mammals had declined by 59 percent in the continent’s protected areas between 1979 and 2005.
According to the IUCN Red List, cheetahs are classified as Vulnerable and though still found throughout areas of eastern, southern, and north-western Africa they are in decline. Some 7,500 cheetahs survive in the wild. African wild dogs are in worse shape. Limited to eastern and southern Africa, they are classified as Endangered by the IUCN. Approximately 3,000-5,500 individuals remain, but the population is also on a downward trend.
Cheetah in Kenya. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Why top predators matter: an in-depth look at new research
(02/02/2010) Few species have faced such vitriolic hatred from humans as the world’s top predators. Considered by many as pests—often as dangerous—they have been gunned down, poisoned, speared, ‘finned’, and decimated across their habitats. Even where large areas of habitat are protected, the one thing that is often missing are top predators. However, new research over the past few decades is showing just how vital these predators are to ecosystems. Biologists have long known that predators control populations of prey animals, but new studies show that they may do much more. From controlling smaller predators to protecting river banks from erosion to providing nutrient hotspots, it appears that top predators are indispensible to a working ecosystem. Top predators sit at the apex of an ecosystem’s food chain. Wolves in Alaska, tigers in Siberia, lions in Kenya, white sharks in the Pacific are all examples of top predators.
(11/10/2009) On Monday October 26th a three-year-old girl mistakenly ate the pesticide Furadan (also known as carbofuran) in western Kenya. Her father, a teacher at a primary school, said that he had no knowledge of how dangerous the pesticide was, which he had purchased to kill pests in his vegetable garden.
(08/20/2009) The Kenyan Wildlife Service recently announced that massive declines in lion population may lead to their disappearence from the region within less than 2 decades. Kenya currently has an estimated 2000 lions, but is losing the large cats at a rate of around 100 each year.