Conservation is most effective when it uses the best available evidence, and hence sound science underpins all we do at CCI. CCI has an active conservation science research program, to improve our understanding of the ecology and conservation status of cheetah, and developing new approaches to monitoring the species and its threats.CCI runs the Serengeti Cheetah Project, which is the longest ongoing project on wild cheetahs and has generated much of the science that informs our approach to conservation. CCI also undertakes research to understand the socio-ecological context of cheetah conservation and to develop practical and innovative solutions to the conservation challenges faced by cheetah and other large carnivores. As recognised leaders in our field, and globally renowned experts on cheetah and other large carnivores, we engage with decision makers at the highest levels of international policy, including through organisations like CITES and CMS. We are also the responsible authority by the IUCN Cat and Canid Specialist Groups for conservation planning for both cheetah and African wild dogs.
CCI works actively to inform decision-makers on matters of international concern regarding cheetah. CITES (the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species) and CMS (Convention on Migratory Species) represent highly important opportunities for advocating for the need for international collaboration in tackling large scale issues that affect cheetah conservation, including the Illegal trade in cheetah.
Since 2012, CCI have been supporting Parties to CITES (e.g. Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Yemen) in the submission of multiple documents focused on garnering international support for tackling illegal cheetah trafficking via discussion within meetings of the CITES Animals Committee, Standing Committee and Conferences of the Parties. CCI have also organised three side events at CITES meetings to bring Parties and NGOs together and to highlight evidence and concern over this illegal cheetah trade.
The CCI is also the focal point for cheetah-related issues for the IUCN-SSC (Species Survival Commission) and CMS and we also continue to work as active members of formal and informal working cheetah groups relating to CITES and CMS on both African and Asiatic cheetah. Examples of CCI engagement include:
CCI seeks to address the challenges for supporting coexistence.
More than three quarters of the world’s remaining 7,000 cheetahs live outside protected areas, where they share their landscape with people. Many of these areas are arid or semi-arid savannahs, where crop production is difficult, and many people depend on livestock farming. Coexistence in such situations is challenging, as cheetahs may hunt and kill livestock, particularly in areas where wild prey are scarce, and hence can threaten people’s livelihoods. Moreover, people’s lived experiences of livestock depredation, and sometimes even threats to their personal safety, may often result in deep and complex emotional responses, including fear, admiration, reverence, or anger, sometimes simultaneously. Responses are often further mediated by complex relationships with the natural world, and may encompass past grievances, such as may arise from government policies and wider political and economic processes.
Given these complexities and the potentially negative impact of large carnivores on people, CCI takes a pragmatic approach to coexistence, and accepts that it is unrealistic to expect rural people to develop overwhelmingly positive attitudes toward carnivores and to share a landscape with them without incurring any conflict. Instead, CCI, has sought to take a holistic approach that aims to foster coexistence between people and cheetahs and other large carnivores, shifting the dial away from conflict and towards tolerance. Working with other experts and NGOs with experience in this area, CCI has developed a Theory of Change to foster coexistence between people and large carnivores across Africa’s dryland landscapes. Taking a holistic approach, we have identified three pathways to address challenges to coexistence across the large landscapes needed by large carnivores: good governance harmonized across geographic scales; sustainable stewardship of natural resources at landscape level; and reduced costs and increased benefits of living alongside large carnivores. Successful conservation depends on harmonization of bottom-up, community-led approaches, with top-down regulation that allows conservation to be effective at scale, but which is equitable and acceptable to communities.
This Theory of Change underpins all our work to support coexistence between cheetahs and local communities. For more information see https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcosc.2021.698631/full