North African Cheetah Research and Conservation
To study and breed cheetahs of northern African origin
The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the rarest and least known of the large mammals of Northern Africa. As gazelles became rare due to hunting, and habitat degradated during the second half of the 20th century, the species was reduced to a very small, highly fragmented population that appears to be on the very brink of extinction and disappeared from Tunisia. The decline of the cheetah, however, was not only limited to its North African population. The global population has plummeted from 100 000 individuals at the beginning of the 20th century to approximately 10 000 individuals nowadays. Its range distribution has strongly decreased too. In India, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula, Djibouti, Israel, Ghana, Nigeria and Russia the species has become completely extinct, and has suffered a great reduction in numbers and geographical range also in sub-Saharan Africa. It was added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2001.
Most of the knowledge on cheetah is issued from southern and eastern Africa long-term studies. Few data is available on the North African cheetahs, which generally are smaller and paler in colour than subsaharan cheetahs, and which are considered to belong to three different subspecies by some authors: Acinonyx jubatus venaticus, A.j. hecki and A.j. soemmerringi which are respectively classified as critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable by the IUCN. At present, only two main population concentrations can be confirmed: in the south-western Sahara and in Iran. In the south-western Sahara, mountain ranges in Algeria, Chad, Mali and Niger form the cheetah's stronghold, although they can range far out onto sandy plains where there is sufficient prey.
To unite and coordinate efforts made in and ex situ, a group of experts has been created under the name "Observatoire du Guépard en Régions d’Afrique du Nord - OGRAN" (North African Region Cheetah Action Group - NARCAG). The two main goals of the OGRAN are to increase knowledge on cheetah in North African Regions for its conservation and to define priorities and perform conservation actions for cheetah in African countries located north of the Equator through the reinforcment of the relationships between the partners involved in ex-situ and in-situ cheetah conservation within a coordinated network.
The OGRAN is a network of in and ex-situ cheetah experts (veterinarians, ethologists, ecologists, conservationists). The OGRAN coordinates activities of the members and favours the information and knowledge exchange between OGRAN members through a web forum and annual meetings. Field activities consist in:
- in situ activities: observatory activities (census campaigns, collection of sample for genetic studies), training/education activities (for fauna guards, guides, and local population), research.
- ex situ activities: breeding and rearing cheetahs in captivity, increasing knowledge on technical aspects of management/handling, as well as on cheetah behaviour and pathology, research.
WAZA Conservation Project 06018 was officially created on 2 February 2005 by the Zoological Society of Paris, the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, the Cheetah Conservation Fund, the zoos of La Palmyre, Doué-la-Fontaine, Amnéville, Auneau, Mulhouse, The Peaugres Safari Park, the Sheik Butti's Wildlife Centre, the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, and DECAN refuge. AWELY is currently the coordinator of OGRAN.
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