Saharan Cheetah filmed by remote cameras at the Ahaggar Cultural Park in the Algerian Sahara.
For the first time in more than a decade, the Saharan Cheetah spotted again in the Ahaggar Mountains in Tamanrasset, southern Algeria. The news was announced today during a press conference by Salah Amokrane, the director of the Algerian Cultural Parks project (PPCA).
The Saharan Cheetah was filmed by camera traps at Atakor in the heart of the Ahaggar in Marsh 2020. The remote cameras were set-up by the scientific team of the Ahaggar Cultural Park Office (ONPCA). A short video of the cheetah trying to climb a tree was shared in the press conference (see the video below).
The PPCA director explained that this project mobilised “around fifty agents of the ONPCA from different specialities for 120 days, using among others 40 camera traps operating continuously. This generated a new database of more than 230,000 photos which are under study”.
Speaking by videoconference from Tamanrasset, the ONPCA director Hamoud Amerzagh explained that “these research missions carried out in 2017, 2019 and then in March 2020 followed a rigorous scientific protocol and the involvement of the inhabitants of the Park and their knowledge and expertise”.
Critically endangered and living in a low density
The Saharan Cheetah or Northwest African Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) is a critically endangered Cheetah subspecies with a patchy distribution in Central Sahara and the Sahel. Because of the harsh Saharan environment, the Saharan Cheetah lives in a very low density.
A study carried out in the Ahaggar Cultural Park between 2008 and 2010 using camera traps estimated the cheetah density between 0.21–0.55/1,000 km2 (Belbachir et al. 2015). The authors of the study noted that this is one of the lowest densities of a large carnivore ever recorded in Africa. They also estimated the average home range size of an animal over 2–3 months to be 1,583 km2.
Belbachir, F., Pettorelli, N., Wacher, T., Belbachir-Bazi, A. & Durant, S. M. 2015. Monitoring Rarity: The Critically Endangered Saharan Cheetah as a Flagship Species for a Threatened Ecosystem. PLOS ONE 10(1): e0115136. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0115136
Some mammal news from the last couple of years:
- Sand Cats at Merzouga, Morocco (2 individuals, one photographed in February 2019 and another filmed in June of the same year).
- Sand Cats resting in bird nests built in Acacia trees in Western Sahara, southern Morocco.
- Mhorr Gazelle declared extinct in Tunisia (2020).