Saturday, January 14, 2017

What exactly is happening to the worlds Cheetahs

 The world's cheetah population has dramatically fallen over the last several decades to where now there are estimated to only be approximately 7100 in the wild. The Cheetah population in Asia is all but gone, essentially leaving only those left in Africa. Here's a link to a recent report. The majority of these live in the grasslands of Namibia and South Africa. What seems to be happening is a loss of the overall habitat that the animals have hunted in as there is more development in these countries for farmland. This has caused the cheetah population to move into areas where there are more trees and brush as opposed to wide open plains. One thing that was noted by veterinarians visiting the area was that many of these cheetah are very thin and malnourished and when examined closer have ocular injuries in one or both eyes. This makes stereoscopic vision almost impossible and something that these fast hunters require in chasing down their prey. Several years ago a veterinarian in the area examined some of these and found that there are penetrating wounds into the cornea of the eye caused by small thorns. It is
postulated that as these cats chase prey through a thorny brush undergrowth that they are taking thorn injuries into the eye and that is leading to their inability to hunt effectively and essentially starvation. I found this to be a really amazing story of investigative medicine and Veterinarians trying to isolate what the cause of this problem is. It must also be understood that when these countries are dealing with their own level of starvation it is very difficult for those on the outside to tell them that their increased farming is what's leading to this problem. The use of fencing and the development of large grasslands for grazing of cattle and modern agriculture has reduced the available habitat for the cheetah and is forcing them into the perimeter of the country where there normal hunting tactics are leading to devastating eye injuries. Governmental authorities in many of these areas are aware of the problem and are working to find solutions but is a difficult balancing act to say the least. Many of the areas occupied by the cheetah actually fall outside of protected lands .One small company called  Bushblocks  makes fire logs with the wood from these thorn bushes which is harvested in these areas and sending the money back so that even more of the thorny underbrush can be removed. There is currently a move to change the status of the cheetah to endangered which may generate more awareness and a greater level of protection for the species. This is something we will all have to watch over time.