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In focus: A Future For Cheetahs by Dr. Laurie Marker and Suzi Eszterhas


 After spending three years living in the African bush, award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas has captured unique photographs that give an intimate view into the lives of Cheetahs, and feature in a stunning book called A Future For Cheetahs, written by Cheetah expert Dr. Laurie Marker

The Cheetah is walking two worlds in its race for survival: facing problems both inside and outside protected areas.

Borders are lines on maps that separate countries and people. They are part of our world which wildlife, of course, doesn’t recognise. Animals follow ancient migration patterns and seek suitable habitat that contains the right elements for survival. This often puts them in conflict with people who inhabit the same land.

For the Cheetah and other species, living within the borders of protected parks or game reserves can mean the difference between life and death. The individual animals that live within protected lands are photographed by tourists and protected by rangers. However the majority of Cheetahs are not found in protected areas due to conflict with other larger predators. In protected game reserves Cheetahs often lose their kill or their cubs to something larger and more aggressive. When Cheetahs move out of protected lands, though, this leaves them vulnerable to humans whose first priority is to protect their livelihoods.

Human­-wildlife conflict and habitat loss are the biggest threats to Cheetahs. As the human population increases, there is a higher demand for land rights. Agricultural pressure and subdivision of land mean a decrease in habitat for the Cheetah and other species.

Understanding these challenges, the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is dedicated to saving the Cheetah in the wild. Its new book, A Future For Cheetahs, written by Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, and  illustrated with the breathtaking photography of Suzi Eszterhas, offers a detailed insight into the life of the Cheetah along with the challenges they face in a rapidly changing world.

Suzi Eszterhas is a wildlife photographer specialising in documenting the family lives of endangered species. In order to capture these unique photos of Cheetahs, she spent nearly three years living alone in a bush camp in Africa. Her patience, dedication and long hours in the field have yielded some ofthe most intimate imagery of Cheetahs ever captured. Visit www.suzieszterhas.com 

Dr. Laurie Marker, who has provided the captions below, is Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). Having worked with Cheetahs since 1974, Laurie set up the not-for-profit Fund in 1990 and moved to Namibia to develop a permanent Conservation Research Centre for the wild Cheetah.


Running hot

During its short, sharp burst of speed in pursuit of prey, the Cheetah’s body temperature elevates quickly. It has been measured at 105° F, or 4° F higher than normal temperature. After a chase, therefore, the animal needs to rest  and cool down for up to half an hour.  


dedicated parent

Female Cheetahs raise their cubs on their own and keep a watchful eye for the dangers of the bush: mainly other predators, or even baboons. The female is everything to the cubs; she feeds and grooms them, and shows them how to behave. The cubs soon learn that it is important to keep an eye out in the same direction their mother is looking.  


learning process

Growing cubs need to learn many life skills including how to recognise dangers in their environment. Playful experimentation is one way to learn. By poking at it and trying to chase it, this cub will discover that while this tortoise poses no threat, he can’t eat it and it doesn’t run. He will soon move on to more amusing educational opportunities!  


game of life

At about six weeks of age, the cubs begin following their mother on her daily travels looking for prey. During these first few months she cannot move far or fast as this is when cub mortality is highest. It is also the time when life skills are taught. Playtime appears to be constant, but as the cubs play they are developing motor skills and coordination, and they are finding out about the speed and agility of their bodies. There is so to learn about life in the wild.   


lasting legacy

Despite all the problems facing the Cheetah, including their genetic uniformity, competition with other large carnivores, and human wildlife conflict, this magnificent animal has survived thousands of years. These icons of speed and grace continue to fill their ecological role as the world’s fastest mammalian predator. Intregated conservation programmes across large landscapes will assure the survival of the Cheetah for future generations. 


 speed over stamina

Cheetahs hunt in the early morning and early evening.  Their speed and agility make them the best hunters on the savanna; however their lack of endurance and timid nature impede their hunting success. They capture their prey by stalking as close as 10m before beginning the chase. This pursuit lasts for as little as 20 seconds, though, and rarely longer than a minute. Consequently, only about 10 per cent of chases are successful. 


branching out 

In East Africa, Cheetah cubs use tall trees to play in. In Namibia, these trees are actually called “playtrees” by local farmers. Learning to climb trees is dangerous, however, as Cheetahs have fragile and lightweight bones that could break easily if they fall. 


special care

The Cheetah Conservation Fund, founded in 1990, cares for an average of 45 to 50 Cheetahs at its Centre in Namibia. Each year orphaned Cheetahs are brought to the CCF centre where some will stay their entire lives. Others will be suited to return to the wild. All of them receive the best care, good diet, and regular exercise.