Of all the big cats in Africa, cheetah are the most threatened, with an estimated global population of less than 7,000 individuals.
Tanzania's cheetah population is estimated to be around 1,180, representing just over 10% of the global population.
Cheetah feed on a wide range of prey from hares to adult wildebeest. They are predominantly diurnal, being most active in the early morning and evening.
Female cheetah are solitary or accompanied by dependent cubs, while males can live in 'coalitions' of 2-3 individuals, who are usually brothers.
Cheetah have a unique social system whereby males hold small territories (around 50 km2), while females and non-territorial males roam across large areas (up to 3,000km2).
Cheetah are wide-ranging and occur naturally at low densities, and hence never reach high numbers even in the largest protected areas. Although cheetah used to be widespread across Africa, they have been eradicated from much of their historical range, and their range is now extremely fragmented. Only two of the remaining populations are thought to number more than 1000 individuals, one of these is in southern Africa, but Tanzania is key to the other population, which is distributed across the Serengeti ecosystem and the landscape bordering Kenya, up into the Tsavo and Laikipia ecosystems in central Kenya.
Viable populations of cheetah need large expanses of habitat, and hence the species is particularly vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation. Prey of cheetah are also targeted for bushmeat, and where there is no prey there can be no cheetah. Outside and on protected area boundaries cheetah are also vulnerable to persecution, often in retaliation to depredation of livestock or farmed game. The species is also targeted for illegal trade, either as live animals for the pet trade, or for their skins.
WCS, in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), supports the longest ongoing study of individually known cheetah in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. This study has told us much of what we know about wild cheetah, and this information has been used to inform a range-wide conservation program. The program works on several levels including developing and establishing regional and national policy frameworks for the conservation of cheetah; promoting coexistence and mitigating conflict between people and cheetah and other large carnivores; combatting illegal trade in live cheetah and cheetah products; and field surveys to identify priority areas for cheetah conservation. Tanzania, with Kenya, is now a focus of one of three transboundary cheetah landscapes, where WCS and ZSL are actively working to safeguard the cheetah population, by maintaining habitat and connectivity across a large scale.
For more information see http://cheetahandwilddog.org/