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April 24th, 2012, 1:48 pm #11

Iranian cheetahs GPS-collared for the first time
Saturday 3 March 2007

Biologists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have fitted critically endangered cheetahs in Iran with Global Positioning System (GPS) collars. This marks the first time this population of Asiatic cheetah can be tracked remotely. WCS is working with the Iranian Department of Environment to protect the Asiatic cheetah found only in the extremely arid habitat around Iran's Kavir Desert. The conservation groups that on 60-100 Asiatic cheetah remain in the wild, making it one of the world's most endangered cats. "This is an amazing milestone in securing the long-term future for the Asiatic cheetah," said Wildlife Conservation Society biologist Dr. Luke Hunter, who led the international team. "We know very little about the important ecological needs of the species in Iran except that they require vast areas for their survival. Understanding their movements as they travel between reserves is one of the first steps in establishing a plan to secure and connect the few remaining populations of this incredible animal." Pictures afterwards ->

WCS notes that the population of the species has fallen significantly since the early years of the 1979 revolution in Iran. "Once ranging from the Red Sea to India, the Asiatic cheetah today is hanging on by only the thinnest of threads," WCS stated in a release. "In the 1970s, estimates of the number of cheetahs in Iran ranged from 100 to 400 animals. But widespread poaching of cheetahs and their prey during the early years of the 1979 revolution, along with degradation of habitat due to livestock grazing, have pushed this important predator to the brink of extinction. Historically cheetahs have played a significant role in Iranian culture, being trained by its emperors to hunt gazelles in ancient times."

Elsewhere the Asiatic cheetah has gone extinct. WCS says that they disappeared from most of the Middle East about 100 years ago and India in 1947. "These captures herald a new era of conservation in Iran," added Dr Hooshang Ziaie, Iranian biologist and director of the project in Iran. "This is the first time we have successfully deployed these collars in Iran, and the data they provide will enable us to make very specific recommendations for conserving cheetahs for future generations. We are delighted that this international collaboration is producing such important outcomes."

Female Asiatic cheetah captured with a remote camera in Iran.

A male cheetah held securely but gently in a ‘soft-catch' foot-hold snare. The technique is one of the safest ways to capture cheetahs and allows scientists to sedate the animals for radio-collaring; both recent captures took place without a hitch.

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April 24th, 2012, 1:49 pm #12

Impressive Widebeest Kill by a Cheetah Coalition : ... re=related

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April 24th, 2012, 1:50 pm #13

Male Cheetah Bark Triggers Female Ovulation

Matt Kaplan
for National Geographic News
January 9, 2009

Male cheetahs turn females on—literally.

That's because a specific bark triggers the female reproductive system to release eggs, researchers have found.

Unlike other cat species, female cheetahs ovulate rarely and at unusual times. They also lack a regular reproductive cycle.

All this makes them tough to breed in captivity.

But now, scientists know why—and the discovery may boost efforts to breed the rare cats.

A team of bioacoustics experts studying cheetah vocalizations stumbled onto the discovery.

They noticed that the male's "stutter bark" was made days before breeding took place, said research leader Matt Anderson at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Because calls unique to a single gender are often associated with reproduction, Anderson and his colleagues took a closer look.

Heightened Hormones

The team introduced a sexually mature female cheetah to two males during a series of experiments, recording calls made by the cats and monitoring the hormones found in their feces.

They discovered that male stutter-bark calls triggered increases in the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone in the females' feces.

By recording and analyzing stutter-bark rates, the researchers showed that increases in stutter-barking steadily raised the female reproductive hormones responsible for ovulation.

"We never expected to see such a tight link between the vocalization and the hormone levels," Anderson said of the research, which has not yet been published in a journal.

"This came a real surprise."

Conservation Boost

The finding has big implications for breeding the rare cat, the researchers said.

The cheetah has an estimated adult population of only 7,500, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The only known wild cheetah population outside of Africa today is a critically endangered group of fewer than a hundred in Iran.

"I think this just goes to show that telephone sex evolved before telephones," said co-researcher Fred Berkovitch, an ecologist at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

"By documenting how sound makes animals horny, we hope to improve conservation-breeding programs."

Booty Call of the Wild

Using sound to jump-start reproduction is common among birds, but in mammals it is almost unheard of, experts say.

Male red deer are known to roar to advance the timing of ovulation in females, for instance.

But a male mammal using a signal to activate a reproductive cycle in a female has never been observed before.

Dan Blumstein, an ecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the findings were "neat, but not unexpected."

The new research illustrates nicely how much can be done to improve breeding of endangered species by watching behaviors and studying hormones in the animals' waste, Blumstein added.

Call it "ovulation on demand"—a bizarre bark from a male cheetah (above, a young male in Africa) jump-starts a female cheetah's reproductive system, scientists said in late 2008.

The discovery may explain why cheetahs are so hard to breed in captivity. ... ation.html

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April 24th, 2012, 1:50 pm #14

Speedy cheetahs put through paces

By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News

Scientists are attempting to discover exactly what makes cheetahs the fastest running animals on the planet.

A Royal Veterinary College (RVC) team is using high-speed cameras and a sensitive track to monitor the big cats as they sprint.

Cheetahs can reach speeds of at least 104km/h (64mph) and they can achieve their top speed in just a few paces.

The study is being carried out with North African cheetahs from ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Professor Alan Wilson, head of the structure and motion laboratory at RVC, said: "The cheetah is fascinating because it can run 50% faster than any of the other animals we are familiar with, so in terms of understanding what limits how fast you can run, the cheetah is a wonderful animal to study."

Chasing chicken

Just as most domestic cats cannot resist chasing a piece of string, cheetahs also find the temptation of some twitching twine too difficult to ignore - especially if a tasty treat is dangling from the end.

The lure of some string to play with is to difficult to resist

So the research team entice the zoo's cheetahs to run by attaching some choice chicken pieces - wings and feet are a favourite - to a loop of fast-moving string that is pulled along the enclosure by an electric motor.

And as the cats chase the chicken feast, four high-speed cameras, which record at 1,000 frames per second - compared with 25 frames per second for standard cameras - capture their every move.

Penny Hudson, a PhD student at RVC, said: "We use two cameras on each side of the enclosure so we can see the cheetah from both sides.

"When a cheetah gallops, it does different things with either side of its body - it has an asymmetric gate."

The scientists are also using special plates that are embedded within cheetahs' running track.

Miss Hudson explained: "The plates are like sophisticated weighing scales that are able to measure all the forces going through their legs."

Lightning Bolt

The scientists are going to compare their results with other studies that have been carried out on greyhounds, which can reach top speeds of approximately 60km/h (40mph).

The researchers are comparing how cheetahs and greyhounds run

Miss Hudson said: "Greyhounds are artificially bred by us to be fast, whereas these [cats] have evolved for that.

"But cheetahs can run much faster than a racing greyhound.

"So we're trying to get them running at similar speeds to see what they do that's the same and what they do that makes them go that little bit faster."

In speedy humans - the fastest on record being Usain Bolt who ran 100m in 9.69 seconds (an average of 37km/h or 23mph) - speed is thought to be constrained by leg strength.

Usain Bolt ran the 100m in 9.69 seconds

While in greyhounds, speed is believed to be limited by how quickly the dogs can swing its legs.

But for cheetahs - the reasons are still unclear - so the data from the experiments will be used to examine the forces and dynamics of the cats' legs, their speed, the length of each stride, as well as joint angles and posture.

Miss Hudson added: "We really don't know what it is about cheetahs that make them run so fast - it might be their flexible spines, or it might be their shoulder blades, it could be that they stretch their legs a bit more, but hopefully the data will unravel some of those mysteries."

Wild cats

Although cheetahs' speedy reputation is well documented, there is still a question mark hanging over the top speeds that one can reach.

In 1997, a paper published in the Journal of Zoology gave the figure at 104km/h (64mph). The data came from an experiment that took place in Kenya in 1965, where a captive cheetah was timed as it chased the remains of a Sunday lunch attached to the back of a 4x4 vehicle.

So far the captive cheetahs are reaching top speeds of 54km/h

But researchers think it is very likely that the cats can run even faster than this.

Professor Wilson, whose biomechanics research is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said that the captive cheetahs at Whipsnade were so far reaching 54km/h (34mph).

He explained: "We know that cheetahs won't reach their full speed here. We hope they'll get to as fast as our racing greyhounds do, and we hope to get to a bigger space to do this."

The team also hopes to study cheetahs in the wild - where they would like to look at how wild cats run and also attempt to record a more accurate top speed.

Professor Wilson said: "Eventually we'd love to be able to get GPS and video data from cheetahs in the wild that are out and hunting - this is where they will be at the limits of their performance."

The team hopes to study the cheetahs in a larger enclosure

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April 24th, 2012, 1:51 pm #15

Cheetah sets world speed record

By John Johnston • • September 9, 2009

Sarah, an 8-year-old Cincinnati Zoo cheetah, succeeded Wednesday in setting the world speed record for land mammals.

Sarah covered 100 meters in 6.13 seconds at the zoo’s Regional Cheetah Breeding Facility, also known as the Mast Farm, in Clermont County. It was her second run of the day. In her first try, she ran 100 meters in 6.16 seconds. The record had been 6.19 seconds.

The zoo announced in July that the record attempt would pit Sarah against Zaza, an 8-year-old female cheetah at Cheetah Outreach in South Africa.

Zaza’s Aug. 15 run in South Africa was postponed because bad weather caused a muddy track. She’s expected to run in late September or early October.

Sarah’s run initially was planned for Kentucky Speedway, but her handlers moved the run to her training facility because she’s most comfortable there and they felt she’d have a better chance of setting the record.

The course was certified by the Road Running Technical Council of USA Track & Field.

The world speed record attempts are meant to draw attention to the plight of cheetahs. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the species as threatened, the risk level just below endangered. The worldwide cheetah population is estimated at fewer than 10,000.

Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land mammals, capable of reaching speeds up to 70 mph over short distances. In its natural habitat, the African savanna, it uses that speed to chase down prey.

In comparison, humans are a rather plodding species, at least when it comes to sprints. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt holds the 100-meter record with a time of 9.58 seconds, which he set last month at the world championships.

The zoo’s Cheetah Encounter exhibit puts the cats’ running ability on display at 11 a.m. and noon on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 4.

In 2000, a Cincinnati Zoo cheetah named Moya set the world speed record for land mammals, covering 100 meters in 6.60 seconds. Moya, who came from Cheetah Outreach, died in January.

Moya’s brother, Nyana, who lives in South Africa, broke that record in 2001 with a time of 6.19 seconds. ... /309080011

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April 24th, 2012, 1:52 pm #16

Epic cheetah hunt filmed in HD

By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News
Page last updated at 08:11 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 09:11 UK

One band of brothers has developed a taste for ostrich

Stunning footage has been captured of three cheetahs cooperating to hunt and bring down an adult ostrich.

The high-definition (HD) film of the hunt was recorded by a BBC crew for the natural history series Life.

The behaviour could be unique among cheetahs, which are usually too slight to bring down such a formidable foe.

However, the three cheetahs, thought to be a band of brothers, have learnt how to routinely hunt this largest of birds.

Life producer Mr Adam Chapman describes how the film crew captured the cheetahs behaving in such a striking behaviour on camera.

"It's in a place called the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. The main bit of Lewa is about 60 square miles, it's huge. Basically the wildlife comes and goes off it."

Ten years ago, three male cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) arrived in the area, which they soon made their territory.

Male cheetahs often form collations to defend a good hunting area and gain better access to females.

But while cheetahs are incredibly fast, they are so slight that even coalitions usually only attempt to hunt animals that a single male can bring down.

Male cheetahs will often team up when hunting

However, these three brothers have learnt to hunt cooperatively, Mr Chapman explains.

"They are amazing on what they will take on," he says.

While researching and filming for Life, Chapman and his colleagues saw the cheetahs hunting the calves of common eland, one of the largest antelope in Africa.

"If they got really lucky they'd succeed, and if they got unlucky they'd get beaten up by the adult eland or chased off."

The team also saw the cats hunting injured oryx, which sport long sharp horns over 1m long.

"One of them was quite lucky not get skewered in the process. The cheetah are pretty cock sure. They chance their arm. And that's probably how they came to start taking ostriches routinely. By one of them giving it a go."

The epic ostrich hunt was filmed in high-definition (HD) by BBC wildlife cameraman and presenter Simon King, who captured the event early one evening, after tracking the cheetahs for most of the day.

In the film, the three cheetahs can be seen stalking a male ostrich and giving chase, before breaking off midway to hunt an unsuspecting female ostrich instead.

One male cheetah jumps on the female ostrich's back, before the two other brothers join in to wrestle the huge bird to the ground.

"An ostrich is big enough and strong enough to actually run with the cheetah on its back," says Mr Chapman. "These three are hunting prey that it really takes their combined effort to pull down."

"There are a lot of cheetah in Africa, but however long I've been interested in these things, I've never heard of it before and I've certainly never seen it."

"What is special about it is they do it routinely, and they do it together."

The film crew say there is anecdotal evidence that the cheetahs may hunt in phase with the full moon, as it offers the best light at night.

The behaviour of the three cheetahs is so unique that it will likely die out with this particular band of brothers.

"When one of them pegs it and they are forced to stop doing it, that's it. There won't be another generation of Lewa cheetah hunting ostriches," says Mr Chapman.

The BBC series Life is broadcast at 2100BST on BBC One each week from Monday 12th October. ... 302054.stm

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April 24th, 2012, 1:52 pm #17

Cheetah prey and hunting success rate Kgalagadi Cheetah Project

Cheetah with Gemsbok kill

Camel Killed by Cheetah

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April 24th, 2012, 1:53 pm #18

Elusive Saharan Cheetah Captured in Photos

By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor
posted: 24 December 2010 08:17 am ET

A hind image showing the Saharan cheetah in the Termit region of Niger, Africa, was captured recently by a camera trap. Credit: Sahara Conservation Fund/WildCRU.
Full Size 3 of 3

A camera trap recently captured the elusive Saharan cheetah in a vast desert in Niger, Africa.

An elusive Saharan cheetah recently came into the spotlight in Niger, Africa, where a hidden camera snapped photos of the ghostly cat, whose pale coat and emaciated appearance distinguish it from other cheetahs.

In one of the images the sleek, light-colored cat with small spots on its coat and a small head is turning in the direction of the camera, its eyes aglow.

Its appearance, and how the Saharan cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) is genetically related to other cheetahs is open to question, said John Newby, CEO of the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF), who is part of the team, along with SCF's Thomas Rabeil and others, who captured the camera-trap snapshots between July ad August. What they know about this species comes from the few photos they've managed to capture.

"I think we were more happy than surprised when the images turned up, because we knew cheetahs were in the general area because we had seen their tracks on several occasions," Newby said. "However, the area is so vast that picking up an animal as rare as this always entails a lot of luck and good judgment on where to place the cameras."

The animal is so rare and elusive scientists aren't sure how many even exist, though they estimate from the few observations they've made of the animal and tracks that fewer than 10 individuals call the vast desert of Termit and Tin Toumma in Niger home. Fewer than 200 cheetahs probably exist in the entire Sahara.

Losing this cheetah would also mean losing important genetic and biological diversity, as these animals have adaptations for survival in extreme desert conditions.

Their home can reach sizzling temperatures up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius), and is so parched no standing water exists. "They probably satisfy their water requirements through the moisture in their prey, and on having extremely effective physiological and behavioral adaptations," Newby said.

In an effort to conserve water and stay out of the heat, the Saharan cheetah is even more nocturnal than other cheetahs.

Spotting these cats in the wild has been a challenge. "They are incredibly shy and elusive animals," Newby said. In addition, they likely have broad home ranges since their prey – gazelles, hares, large birds and smaller rodents – are relatively scarce. Observations that have been made suggest they prefer caves and rock shelters as breeding dens.

Among the threats to the pale cat are scarcity of prey due to poaching and overuse, and conflicts with herders over stock harassment and killing of their animals, according to SCF. Apparently cheetah skins are prized as prayer rugs or used to make slippers.

"They are suspected of taking goats and even baby camels, and as a result are persecuted just like most other large predators," Newby said. "Work underway with local nomads is putting together the true picture of livestock predation in an attempt to reduce the arbitrary slaughter of carnivores that has massively reduced populations of cheetah and striped hyenas."

Newby and Rabeil say the camera-trap study will provide tangible evidence for the cheetah's existence in the Termit area.

"The more we know about the animal the better we can conserve it, including pinpointing key areas for extra protection," Newby said. "The cheetah’s presence adds weight to arguments for the entire zone’s protection as a nature reserve and strengthens our ability to raise support for conservation activities."

The Saharan cheetah is listed as critically endangered on the 2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (IUCN stands for International Union for Conservation of Nature.) ... 01224.html

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April 24th, 2012, 1:54 pm #19

Iran's endangered cheetahs are a unique subspecies

By Ella Davies
Earth News reporter
Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Monday, 24 January 2011

Acinonyx jubatus venaticus

Iran's critically endangered cheetahs are the last remaining survivors of a unique, ancient Asian subspecies, genetics experts reveal.

New analysis confirms Iran's cheetahs belong to the subspecies Acinonyx jubatus venaticus.

DNA comparisons show that these Asiatic cheetahs split from other cheetahs, which live in Africa, 30,000 years ago.

Researchers suggest that Iran's cheetahs must be conserved to protect the future of all cheetahs.

Cheetahs formerly existed in 44 countries in Africa but are now only found in 29.

Historically, they were also recorded across southwest and central Asia but can now only be found in Iran.

Scientists have previously said that cheetahs have low genetic variability, theorising that a "population crash" approximately 10,000 years ago led to inbreeding in the species.

Despite this, five 'different' subspecies are currently described according to where they live.

Genetic studies in the 1990s confirmed cheetahs found in southern Africa (A. j. jubatus) and east Africa (A. j. raineyi) as separate subspecies.

However, it has not been clear whether populations in west Africa (A. j. hecki), northern-east Africa (A. j. soemmeringii), and north Africa and Iran (A. j. venaticus) are genetically different enough to deserve their current status as subspecies.

Aiming to solve the puzzle of modern cheetahs' origins, scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria have been working in collaboration with the Iranian Department of Environment and wildcat conservation group Panthera.

Dr Pamela Burger and her team analysed the DNA of cheetahs from a wide geographical and historical range, including medieval remains found in north-western Iran.

"With our data we prove that current Iranian cheetahs represent the historical Asiatic subspecies A.j. venaticus as they share a similar genetic profile with specimen originating from northwestern Iran in 800-900 CE," explains Dr Burger.

The researchers have also been able to distinguish Iranian cheetahs from their nearest neighbours in northern-east Africa which were confirmed as A. j. soemmeringii.

Cheetahs in north Africa, previously considered the same subspecies as those in Iran, were actually found to have more in common genetically with those in west Africa.

By comparing sequences in the DNA, researchers have found that the unique Asiatic cheetahs separated from the rest of the species in southern Africa over 30,000 years ago.

Dr Burger explains that because this split occurred long before the theorised population crash, A.j. venaticus represents a highly distinct lineage.

"The implications of our discovery are that the confirmation of the subspecies is a basis for future conservation management. If the aim is to conserve this biodiversity, subspecies should not be mixed," she says.

Currently estimated at just 60-100 individuals with less than half at mature breeding age, the Iranian cheetah population is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.

Together with the United Nations Development Programme, Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society the Iranian Department of the Environment has established a programme to make conservation of the Asiatic cheetah a national priority.

Conservationists are concerned that time is running out for Iran's cheetahs.

"We have been successful in stabilising numbers in Iran but we still have a long way to go before we can consider this unique sub-species secure," says Alireza Jourabchian, Director of the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Programme (CACP) in Iran.

Threats facing the small population include overhunting of cheetah prey, habitat degradation and direct poaching. ... 365567.stm

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April 26th, 2012, 10:14 am #20

Spotless cheetah snapped in the wild
Photographer reveals pictures of rare big cat with a sandy golden coat and brown freckles instead of dark spots

Steven Morris and agency, Wednesday 25 April 2012 17.59 BST
Article history

A spotless adult cheetah at the Athi Kapiti Conservancy in Kenya – the sighting is thought to be first in almost a century.

A rare 'spotless' cheetah has been photographed in Kenya by wildlife photographer Guy Combes, who got within around 50m of the big cat.

Combes, originally from Dorset but now based in California, had heard tale of the spotless leopard and travelled to the Athi Kapiti Conservancy in search of it but gave up after days of fruitless searching.

"I didn't think it likely that we would find the cheetah and went back to Nairobi. I then got a call saying it had been seen again so I spent another two days searching," he said. Eventually he spotted the animal.

"I was really excited as we managed to get about 50 yards away. It was was a staggeringly beautiful animal. I didn't expect to see it at all, the area we were going to search was 100,000 acres without borders and it could have easily been beyond that."

John Pullen, curator of mammals at Marwell Wildlife in Hampshire, who has examined the photographs, described the sighting as "quite rare". He said: "There are some spots still evident over the back area but most are missing. The spots or markings on all wild cats are in fact the skin colour and the hair growing from that part of the skin takes on the colouration, so if you shaved off the hair the pattern would be the same. This is really like a rare skin issue where something has happened to the genetic coding that would give the normal pattern."

Combes captured the images last year but has shown it now after photographs of a strawberry-coloured leopard photographed in South Africa emerged. It also comes as footage and images of a white killer whale spotted off the eastern coast of Russia surfaced. ... sfeed=true