December 28, 2012

Tracking signs of a mother cheetah

In late November, I had found a very pregnant female cheetah who I was fortunate to see again over a week's time. Unfortunately, I had to leave for  meetings in Nairobi for more than a week following this period. Since my return to the field I have not seen her again, but expect that she had given birth while I was away. Early this morning, I chose to detour from the sighting location that I usually pass by to check for her on this route, but would take it on my way back in the afternoon. Well, I am elated that I did! Even though I did not see her, fresh spoor (tracks) in the exact location and direction where I had seen them during her presence in November, had resurfaced. This gives me hope that they may be hers, indicating that she is, in fact, still in the area. I will have to return and try confirm its her, of course, but finding the natural signs of a study animal can be just as rewarding, sometimes, as seeing them physically.

December 26, 2012

End of 2012 Field Update

 

It has been eventful in the field, during recent months, so its time for an current update. Since October, I have mainly focused project activities on identifying a number of individual cheetahs in the southern sector of Tsavo East. This was much easier before the rains, during dry season. Now, during December, as with the later part of November, I am still able to monitor known cheetahs and even find new individuals, though with much greater effort and a combination of techniques.

In conjunction with the direct sightings, camera traps are being placed specific locations where I have unfortunately lost track of a few individual cheetahs which I had last monitored in May. My fear is that they may have come into confrontation with pastoralists who graze livestock within the park or perhaps they even wandered outside the park onto community land. Both circumstances could pose dire consequences for these cheetahs. By placing trail cameras in areas where they were frequently seen and followed, the project will potentially have better idea if they remain in this location or even if any new cheetahs are occupying the area.

Irresponsible tour driver behavior in Tsavo has become a serious problem where cheetah protection and conservation are concerned. I have personally witnessed and others have also reported incidents to me, drivers going off-road in the park, often several hundred meters, driving straight up to cheetahs who are often resting under trees for shade. The cheetahs are always frightened away by this unethical behavior and I have even lost track of individuals of which I am monitoring, all due to a driver's need for a 'big tip'! TCP is working with on-ground KWS rangers to combat this issue, for the welfare of the cheetah. Violators will be restricted from access into the park.

Community visits are an essential component of cheetah conservation. The project is always willing to provide livestock husbandry improvement and education on predator behavior to local residents who reach out. Although a recent culprit turned out to be a leopard instead of a cheetah, the problem appears to be solved (at least, for now!) and any further incidents will also be attended to.

There's still so much work to do, but I will try to make time to post in the coming weeks...

Happy New Year, from Tsavo East!

October 3, 2012

Please find the project's new website at: www.TsavoCheetahProject.org
We have much more to add and post in the coming months!
- Cherie

June 1, 2012

Mid-year 2012 Field Update

Here is a long overdue field update from TCP. I am also working to get a webpage for the project up and running, soon. It's been very busy in the field... combined with writing grant proposals for all our field needs and issues with technology in the bush!. Thank you to all our readers for their patience


Thus far, capture data from deployed camera traps have provided us with the necessary evidence to carry out ongoing monitoring of cheetahs within that immediate area inside the park, as well as information on the presence of natural prey and other potentially threatened predators in the region. Obviously these findings provoke worry for the cheetahs, lions and other species whom are being prosecuted against, even in a 'protected national park'. We are continuing to move forward with the camera trapping study design, and also proceed in neighboring tribal communities where cheetah conflict (or lack of education on the species-- fear) and deaths have recently occurred. These latter locations were proclaimed off boundaries to all conservationists, during the past couple of months, due to a high level of armed poaching on neighboring ranches, and the shooting of killing of two Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers in March.

At this stage, deployment within the park boundaries is expected to provide even more captures, thus confirmation of predator – and specifically cheetah, movements from inside to outside park boundaries and herders and livestock from outside to within park boundaries, along with possible captures of livestock or predator deaths, as a result.

This information is very important in order to work effectively with these residents, for our cheetah monitoring, and also to provide to KWS for increased enforcement and policy development within Tsavo East National Park. Scientifically, camera trap data will also help us to understand when and why cheetahs are predating on livestock when there are adequate prey species populations available. The camera trap deployment inside the park will be carried out with the hiring of a KWS park ranger to protect the cameras from potential vandalism or bandits.

I am attempting to include a few photographs-- apparently my computer browser is no longer supported by Blogger, so for the time being, I'll do what I can

October 27, 2011

Conservation through Non-invasive Monitoring and Community Education

The Tsavo Cheetah and its Ecosystem


The Tsavo ecosystem supports a significantly important cheetah population, which has been highlighted in Kenya’s recent conservation strategy for the species.  This population along with connecting populations (Mara -- Serengeti) makes up one of two globally important cheetah populations in Kenya and one of four in eastern Africa.

Encompassing an area of 40,000 km² (15,000 sq. miles), the Tsavo ecosystem, in south east Kenya, is home to the unfenced Tsavo National Parks. Both parks, (East and West) total a combined area of 21,000 km² (8,108 sq. miles), making it the 3rd largest conservation area in the world.

Human – wildlife conflict within the region is on the increase, as the local human population continues to grow and expand onto park boundaries and into protected land. There are still many misconceptions among local residents on the cheetah's behavior and ecology. Many people fear the cheetah, unaware of its non- aggressive nature. As a result, reports of needless killings of this reclusive, threatened cat continue to occur in the vicinity—even within the park’s boundaries. Local poaching for bushmeat, includes cheetahs main prey species and has even caused cheetah deaths due to indiscriminate snaring.

Cheetah Monitoring


The Tsavo Cheetah Project is a long-term project; hence we monitor cheetahs for trend and threat information on an ongoing basis. TCP employee’s non-invasive monitoring techniques, including direct sightings, our tourists / park staff assisted photographic survey and spoor (paw imprint) tracking. We are building a database of cheetah photographs and Identify individuals through the aid of ‘spot matching’ software. Additional planned methodologies include camera traps, for high-threat areas where cheetahs are difficult to view, and the innovative Footprint Identification Technique (FIT), developed by the organization, Wildtrack.

Education and Incentive

The TCP conducts continuous community interviews and follows up on reports made concerning cheetah, presence, conflict, off-take, and tourist’s harassment, within the Tsavo region. We verify incidents of livestock depredation and educate residents through instilling knowledge on cheetah and predator differentiation and ecology, providing assistance on effective livestock husbandry, and encouraging sustainable, eco-friendly land use. Current program efforts focus on predator retaliation in three Maasai homesteads, adjacent to Tsavo East. We are working with these residents through ongoing meetings and livestock assistance. Concurrently, we are offering incentive, by purchasing, displaying and selling Maasai women’s’ beaded crafts at a Gallery in the US, and locally, in Kenya.

How you can help the cheetahs...


We are a new, small NGO in Kenya, independent in funding of any other organization. We are therefore dependent on the kindness of donors like you, to continue with our critical work. Here are some areas in which you can assist us:

Project vehicle hire per month: $800

Vehicle running cost per month: $300

Employment of a local assistant per year: $2400

Camera traps: $3000 Update Jan. 6th: We have reached our goal for 12 camera trap units, thanks to our generous donors!

Current camp cost per month: $300

Donations outside of Kenya are channeled through our affiliate: Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), Registered Non Profit 501(c) 3: #31-1726923. Please see details on the side bar to the right of this post or make a secure payment through paypal by simply clicking the 'donate' button. Your donation is tax-deductable to the full extent of the law.

September 7, 2011

Let's keep this healthy picture, of a lovely cheetah family in Tsavo, for generations to come...


Photo credit: Tiju Aziz
 The Tsavo cheetahs have been highlighted as an important cheetah population in the recent strategic plan for the species.
http://www.kws.org/export/sites/kws/info/publications/strategies/Conservation_and_management_for_Cheetah_and_Wildogs_in_Kenya.pdf
Unfortunately, these cheetahs face multiple, growing threats, as the local human population continues to grow and expand onto park boundaries and into protected land. There are still so many misconceptions among local residents on the cheetah's behavior and ecology. Many people fear the cheetah, unaware of its non-aggressive, non-confrontational nature. As a result, reports of needless killings of this reclusive, threatened cat continue to be reported in the vicinity. The majority of cases are not in retaliation of livestock depredation, although some incidents of goat raiding in locations bordering or inside Tsavo East, have been confirmed.

The Tsavo Cheetah Project is working with local residents to educate them on predator behavior and ecology and assisting with effective livestock herding and husbandry. However, the Tsavo region covers a large expanse of human populations and tribes and we need sufficient funds to maintain and expand both our community and cheetah monitoring programs. Most urgent funding is needed for vehicle hire fees, petrol, and stipend compensation for additional, qualified staff. Please consider assisting us, if you can, so that we may assure the protection  of the Tsavo cheetahs for generations to come.

July 12, 2011

Calling all Tsavo cheetah photographs!

Just a reminder to please send in your Tsavo cheetah photos, if you are fortunate enough to encounter a cheetah in the Tsavo region.

Given the vastness of Tsavo, tourists' and stakeholders' submitted photographs assist me in individually identifying members of this very important cheetah population. Auxiliary information such as date, GPS readings, landmarks and group composition are also useful in following up on sightings of individuals and monitoring them in areas of conflict. Please let me know if you would like me to send you a guideline / recording sheet, if you're heading to Tsavo, soon!

Remember to be 'cheetah-friendly' and only take photographs from a distance and on designated roads, so as not to invade the cheetah's space and interfere with their hunting or other natural behaviour (this applies to all wildlife).

Stop and scan with your binoculars from an open roof hatch or tour mini van. This is often the way I sight individuals from afar, without the need to get much closer or ever go off road (which is not permitted in Kenyan Parks) for an optimal photograph.

See my "Spotting a Cheetah" post, for desired angle positions.

Thank you!

June 16, 2011

A wonderful time in Namibia!


Photo credit: Nicolas Feron
As mentioned in an earlier post, last month, I was privileged to attend the Wildtrack Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) Monitoring Workshop at the breathtaking N/a'an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary and Lodge, near Windhoek, Namibia.
Here, the presence of great conservationists and wildlife researchers met to discuss the technology and utilization of an innovative (yet ancient, in origin) endangered species' non-invasive monitoring technique.
I look forward to employing FIT in areas of the Tsavo region to monitor the cheetah, as it is developed further for the species.
Thank you, to Sanctuary wildlife researcher, Florian Weise, for kindly sending me the group photo and for organizing and implementing much of the workshop, along with the awesome Wildtrack team, and first class hosts and staff at N/a'an ku se!
And a special thank you, to Simone Eckhardt, for making it possible for me to attend. :)


May 7, 2011

Headed to Namibia...

(Although, by plane)

Next week, I will be leaving for Namibia to attend a wildlife monitoring workshop at the N/a'an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary near Windhoek. With my interest in exclusively non-invasive monitoring techniques and continued correspondence with the folks at Wildtrack, I am very much looking forward to attending.

Researchers from Cheetah Conservation Fund (Namibia), Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Africat and other awesome international wildlife organizations will also be present. I'll post from the workshop, upon my return!

May 4, 2011

It's a beautiful day in Tsavo...(minus the off-road lion harassment)

It's always refreshing to get into the park, especially after dealing with the hurdlles and complex issues that come along with all the field work... Although I did not catch glimpse of the two cheetahs I was tracking today, I did come across--and stopped-- to watch a couple of lions... This first photo represents the area and distance from the road on which I took the photos. Although I did not get a picture of the the vehicles themselves, within the approximate 8 minutes that I had stopped, two local vehicles from Mombasa passed my vehicle and approached the two lions (who were trying to sleep, much of the time) within a distance of 20-30 ft, off the designated road! KWS needs to do a better job at passing out literature which stresses Park rules... and visitors need to do a better job at following them and respecting the wildlife.This was appalling. Imagine how many times it goes unwitnessed?
"Why did early man, when he expressed himself in rock engravings, choose animals as emblems of his aspirations? Why have highly cultured races like the Egyptians and Assyrians used animals as symbols for their Gods…? Why are we so deeply moved by tragedies involving our pets? Why are the first toys given to our children representatives of animals?… Do we need more proof that we need animals more than they need us – that they can give us something which we cannot give ourselves? "
Joy Adamson ----- "Pippa's Challenge"