Cheetah International Studbook

As the free-ranging population of cheetahs continues to decline and a large amount of genetic diversity of the remaining populations is lost, the captive and wild populations should be managed in cooperation. The development and collaboration of successful regional breeding programmes is critical in order to contribute to the sustainability of the captive population worldwide.


The world's captive cheetah population is currently maintained by a combination of imports of wild-caught cheetahs, and captive breeding. However, the breeding programmes of our world's zoos are not self-sustaining. The captive population has historically had a low effective breeding size (the actual number of animals alive in the population that have had any reproductive success, which is less than 20%) and, in the absence of further importation, the size of the captive population will be expected to decline further, and the continuing decline of the wild population leaves the species very vulnerable.


The Cheetah Conservation Fund's Executive Director, Dr Laurie Marker, is the keeper of the International Cheetah Studbook. The studbook has the purpose of registering all cheetahs in the world held in both zoological and private facilities and providing information about existing animals by publishing the studbook contents, thus creating the preconditions for selecting breeding animals.


The register is updated on an annual basis. The first edition of the International Cheetah Studbook was published in 1990 (for 1988; international studbooks are usually two years behind – the lag time for information collection and analysis). The studbook data, which in 2008 reflected 1513 animals in 262 facilities in 48 countries at any given time, is used to manage the captive population. Demographics of the population and causes of deaths, birth rates, etc. can all be tracked to monitor this population in order to identify problems so that these can be addressed in a timely manner.


The relative success of the world's captive cheetah population over the past few years indicates that an increased reproductive success throughout the world's cheetah facilities can be achieved through a cooperative management programme. This will become even more important to work towards as the availability of importing wild cheetahs into captive facilities declines.


There will always be some wild-caught cheetahs that cannot be released back into the wild. It is the responsibility of the world's zoos to cooperate in maximising the breeding success of these important wild founders, as set out in the goals of the World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy. The main goal of the world's zoos is to manage the captive cheetah population without the need for wild-caught animals.


Overall, the global captive population has not been self-sustaining. However, the number of breeding animals and the effective population size of the captive cheetah population worldwide have increased to an all time high of 38.6% for 2008. Although the effective breeding population increased in the last years, there continues to be large differences among different regions and within the same regions in reproductive success.


This large difference within a region may be an important indicator as to how cheetahs could be managed such that a population could become self-sustaining. Therefore, the development and collaboration of successful regional breeding programmes is critical in order to contribute to the sustainability of the captive population worldwide.


Laurie Marker, Cheetah International Studbook Keeper

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    Cheetah International Studbook

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