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Cameroon says goodbye to cheetahs and African wild dogs

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.

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