Wildsense for Cheetahs

Paul Krause

The Maasai Mara National Nature reserve in Kenya adjoins the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, which together form a protected core of perhaps the most famous ecosystem in Africa. The “Great Migration” of zebra, Thomson’s Gazelle and wildebeest, has been the subject of documentaries almost since the beginning of the art and science of wildlife documentary making. The hungry predators that follow this migration include lions, leopards and cheetahs.
The Mara is primarily open grassland, but with clumps of trees, scrub and cloud shadows giving the landscape a spotted appearance consistent with its name (“Mara” is the Maasai word for spotted). This is perfect for cheetahs, with open space for running down game and shelter where they can hide from the more powerful predators. The viewing is also excellent for tourists, with some well maintained all weather roads. We once came across a cheetah close to the edge of a road. As he got up and walked away our driver was tempted to follow him onto the open grassland. The view of the graceful animal was wonderful, but he gave us some rather annoyed glances so after a short time we thought it best to leave him. He got his revenge for our disturbing him though as the rain had turned the peaty upland soil into a soft sponge that our van could not get a grip on as it turned into the slight incline back to the road. But as cheetahs do, he had other thoughts in mind as he contemptuously left us while we gracelessly pushed the van across terrain that our vehicle was so ill-equipped to deal with.
Despite the vast horizons of the Mara, the populations of the large predators, and especially cheetahs are under threat. Globally there are less than 10,000 individuals left in the wild and unless we act now to reverse this trend, cheetahs are on a trajectory to extinction. Wildsense may be able to help raise awareness and gain better understanding of cheetahs and their movements. We are pleased to announce that the World Wide Fund for Nature has awarded us a grant of $25,000 US to develop a Wildsense for Cheetahs App, and customised to recognise individual cheetahs from uploaded images. This work will be performed during 2016, with a beta release of Wildsense for Cheetahs planned for June this year.