Friday, April 9, 2010

The Return of the Cheetah!

The after effects of the 27 year Angolan civil war not only are apparent in the destruction and neglect of the national infrastructure, but also in the decimation of the once plentiful herds of wild animals.  Though vast numbers of animals were destroyed during the war by the soldiers and the dominance of poachers, small perserved populations of elephant and unique giant black sable, red buffalo, antelope are seen in the rehabilitating national parks.

One of the recent and exciting spottings that occurred last month in March is that of the cheetah; the first sighting of the animal in Angola for decades.  Though cheetahs are swift, powerful hunters, they were no match for the civil war which devastated the cheetah's main habitat, the Iona National Park. This arid area in the extreme southwest of the country was one of the former ranges of the cheetah, however, due to Angola’s three-decade civil war, the cheetah’s status in the country has been unknown.

The 1.6 million hectare Iona National Park, proclaimed a reserve on 2 October 1937, is located in southwest Angola, bordering Namibia. Although it is very dry, the area is perfect cheetah habitat with thousands of hectares of open savannah and a growing prey base such as springbok and oryx, two species that adapt to an arid environment and are the cheetah’s primary prey.

According to recent reports from the conservation group, Cheetah Conservation Fund, a three day survey in the arid Iona Park revealed reported various sightings of the fast, spotted, leopard-like wild feline.  "We found nine different marking trees," one spotter remarked. In one, he saw cheetah dung. Then "two male cheetahs ran out. It was very exciting -- there are cheetahs in Angola," he said.  (Excerpts from Africa Geographic)

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