Cheetahs in Crisis
Cheetah (acinonyx jubatus), earth’s fastest animal on land, are struggling to outpace threats to their survival in the wild. The current wild cheetah population has dwindled 90% over the last one hundred years. Once distributed widely throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and even North America, the cheetah is now extinct in the wild everywhere except a small population (approx. 60) in Iran and less than 7,500 animals in fragment populations across Africa and southwestern Asia.
As Africa’s most endangered cat, cheetahs are in drastic decline. They are currently listed as vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened species. Their future remains uncertain due to habitat loss, poaching for illegal wildlife trade, decline of wild prey and direct hunting by local ranchers attempting to protect their livestock.
How LEOZCC is Making a Difference in North America
Breeding cheetahs out of the wild is an extreme challenge with a very small portion of the population reproducing. LEO Zoological Conservation Center is unique from other zoological institutions because it is able to offer the animals an expanse of spaces uninterrupted by the constant pressure of human crowds. Our off-exhibit breeding facility, working with zoos across the United States, is designed to ensure genetic diversity and healthy populations among animals. Cheetahs have one of the slowest growth rates in zoological institutions.
Adult females are solitary, and require their own enclosure. They are also extremely selective in choosing its mates and their social and breeding behaviors make this selection process a time consuming and difficult endeavor for zoos. LEOZCC can offer this for their cheetah population which is why LEOZCC is needed and important.
Breeding animals out of the wild for zoos is very important. After all, zoos connect millions of visitors each year to animals, inspiring them to conserve and protect our natural world.
How LEOZCC is Making a Difference Abroad
Since the establishment of our nonprofit center, we have formed unique relationships with Wild Partners. By supporting these “boots on the ground” efforts abroad with information sharing, mentoring and financial contributions to these programs, LEO Zoological Conservation Center is utilizing our cheetah expertise and innovative practices towards saving the wild cheetah. Saving a species is a global effort and these unique partnerships will make a difference.
This will allow for representatives from this litter of 8 cheetah born here at the center to be sent back to Africa where the only successful release program is in effect. This breeding program has had successful captive bred releases, which include collaring the cheetah, releasing them back into the wild, and monitoring their movement and activity. This one of a kind program has had the released cheetah produce offspring!Working with these like-minded organizations will allow for LEOZCC and its partners to enhance the currently limited gene pools in and out of the wild, both in North American and wild Africa
Our conjoined efforts will make a huge impact on keeping genetic diversity in the wild as well as in the captive populations.
This pioneering approach to cheetah preservation is how LEOZCC is going to make a difference; no other conservation program is releasing cheetahs back into the wild to live free!
Along with this captive release program, LEOZCC is also are involved with other revolutionary programs. These programs help a major part of conservation efforts by teaching and raising awareness of the important of cheetahs and preservation of their land:
Restoring Wild Cheetah Populations: Through captive breeding for wild release in Africa, cheetahs are collared and released back into the wild where they are continually monitored. This new initiative has had positive results including two cheetahs producing offspring. This is what we believe to be, the only successful release program of its kind.
LEOZCC will be the first zoological institution, (pending permitting,) in the United States to send rare, unrepresented blood lines back to Africa, so their offspring can aid in restoring wild cheetah populations. Due to this uniquely large litter of 8 born at LEOZCC, American populations can afford to send these unique genes to a new area to enhance wild African bloodlines. Working with these like-minded organizations will allow for LEOZCC and its partners to enhance the currently limited gene pools in and out of the wild, both in North American and abroad.
Conservation Based Research: Field researchers assess the distribution and identify the highest priority of focus by sampling and monitoring the local cheetah populations. This includes gathering data on ecology, home ranges, behavior, the effects of translocation, disease and genetic status. This valuable scientific information is shared with communities, education programs, national governments, and international cheetah conservation efforts through an annual cheetah status report.
Anatolian Shepherd Project: The majority of wild cheetah in Africa live outside protected areas on farmland. It is essential for farmers to apply good livestock management and find non-lethal methods of protection in order to reduce the human/animal conflict. This program introduces the canine Anatolian shepherd to serve farmers in South Africa. These dogs continually stay with the herd and are very sensitive to changes in normal herd behavior or routine; they have reduced livestock losses to almost zero. LEOZCC has provided many dogs for this project.
Community Education: Participating within their communities with school visits and workshops in Africa, these programs encourage and develop more enlightened attitudes towards cheetah amongst the younger generation. Visits to individual schools with Ambassador cheetahs instill a sense of value and pride in Africa’s most endangered cat. Children are inspired by valuable lessons delivered through a range of interactive presentations. They learn about good farm practices, livestock management and the cheetahs’ important role in maintaining their healthy ecosystem. This program is supplemented with Teacher Training Workshops, to engage the support of education professionals in delivering predator awareness and education in their own classes.