Census under way to count wild carnivores

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

The Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group has once again teamed up with the South African National Parks in conducting the fifth wild dog and third cheetah photographic census in and around the Kruger National Park.

The census, which started in August and is to end next April, offers members of the public an opportunity to submit photographs of these animals when they visit the park.

"Members of the public can provide valuable assistance to this project and stand a chance to win great prizes by submitting photographs of any wild dogs or cheetahs seen during their visit to the region," said Hayley Komen of the conservation group.

The Kruger Park is home to the only wild dog and cheetah populations in South Africa.

Komen said the census was important to help understand the population dynamics in the park, so as to develop national strategies to improve the conservation status of these species.

"They are the rarest of the park's large carnivores and their low densities and wide-ranging behaviour make them particularly difficult to count.

"Fortunately researchers are able to recognise individuals of both species by their unique coat patterns, thus enabling an estimation of minimum population size," Komen said.

Komen said that wild dog numbers had fluctuated between a peak of 434 in 1995 and a low of 120 in 2005, while 103 cheetahs were identified.