Habitat loss and fragmentation poses the greatest over-arching threat to the survival of both cheetah and wild dogs. Natural habitats are continuing to be converted for agriculture and grazing, reducing the size of suitable habitat patches and destroying connectivity. At the same time, increases in the use of both small (e.g. individual farms) and large scale fencing (including veterinary cordon fences, protected area fences and border fences) prevents the free movement of cheetahs and wild dogs across landscapes. Because both species live at very low densities and range extremely widely, their populations require much larger areas of connected land to survive than do those of other large carnivore species. For this reason, wild dogs and cheetah are more sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation than are related species. In the long term, conserving viable populations of wild dogs and cheetah is likely to require large areas of connected land in excess of 10,000km2, unless very intensive management can be maintained. Fortunately, both species have the ability to survive and breed in human-dominated landscapes under the right circumstances – we need to work to create these circumstances in areas that may be protected, unprotected, or a combination of the two.
Both Cheetahs and Wild dogs have good dispersal abilities, in the right environments, so that conserving connecting habitat should make it possible to maintain gene flow between populations, and enable natural recolonization should recoverable areas of their range become suitable again.
Both cheetah and wild dogs are highly efficient hunters, able to survive in areas of comparatively low prey density. Nevertheless, in many parts of their range wild prey is in decline due to unsustainable hunting for bush meat, grazing competition with livestock and habitat conversion and/or veterinary cordon fences. As well as reducing the chances of cheetah and wild dog populations surviving, prey loss can also have serious indirect effects, since predation on livestock may become more frequent where wild prey are depleted intensifying conflict with livestock farmers.
Both rabies and canine distemper viruses are maintained within populations of domestic dogs hence disease risks are likely to be particularly high for wild dogs living outside protected areas, or in areas where domestic dog populations are increasing. There is an urgent need to initiate or revive veterinary vaccination campaigns in all range states to reduce disease transmission from domestic dogs. Such campaigns would also be a major benefit to the human communities living with, or adjacent to wild dog populations. Disease probably represents a smaller threat to cheetahs, although in anthrax has been reported as causing substantial mortality at some sites.
However, CCI and partners have been building on traditional approaches to livestock management to prevent depredation of livestock throughout cheetah and wild dog range. Minimising such losses help to reduce conflict and build tolerance, particularly when combined with further livelihood support to generate benefits from carnivores and other wildlife.
Neither cheetah nor wild dog are regularly targeted for snaring, but both species may become captured accidentally in snares set for other species. Snares are usually set to target ungulates for local consumption or for the bush meat trade. Accidental snaring is a major source of wild dog mortality in many parts of Southern Africa and is the most serious threat to wild dog populations in several areas of their range. While effects on cheetah populations are less well quantified, snared cheetah are reported occasionally and snaring may threaten some populations. Snaring also contributes to a loss of wild prey for both species.
Cheetah have historically been hunted for their fur and, although trade in cheetah is now prohibited by CITES, illegal trade in cheetah pelts is ongoing across their range. This trade furnishes a domestic African and international demand for cheetah pelts. Trade and local use in pelts likely continues to play a role in the decline of cheetahs in many areas.
Cheetah are also captured and traded as live animals, and this constitutes the majority of reported incidents of trade. Historically, adult cheetahs were caught and traded to Asian aristocrats and used for hunting, contributing to the extirpation of cheetah from Asia. Cubs are the current target for the live trade, and high levels of illegal trade in cheetah cubs to be sold as pets in Middle East markets have been documented in Somaliland and neighbouring regions. This trade is almost certainly a major factor contributing to declines in cheetah across Somalia and Ethiopia, with broadening impacts on cheetah in northern Kenya and South Sudan as populations become increasingly depleted. Illegal trade in live cheetahs has also been documented in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to furnish the captive breeding and tourist petting industry of South Africa, and may pose an increasing threat.
Wild dogs are occasionally taken for cultural uses (such uses have been reported in Zimbabwe and Malawi). There are also a few anecdotal reports of wild dogs being captured for sale as live animals for far eastern markets, but at present this use is rare and unlikely to constitute a serious threat to wild dog population viability.
While tolerance of both species is low because they take game, wild dogs are particularly unpopular with game farmers because of their tendency to chase large prey into fences which may seriously damage the fences. Tourism can help game farmers mitigate the costs of these predators and may, if done well, generate economic benefits from the presence of cheetah and wild dog, and increase the profitability of game farming.
Unregulated tourism has the capacity to threaten both cheetah and wild dog populations. In cheetah, negative effects of tourism may include interference with hunting, scaring cheetahs away from kills to which they are unlikely to return, and separation of mothers from cubs as a result of interference from tourist vehicles. In wild dogs most impacts result from tourists visiting wild dog dens on foot causing packs to move dens or even abandon their pups. Such impacts can be minimised through tourism regulation, training of safari guides and effective enforcement of cheetah and wild dog friendly observation practices. If tourism is well-regulated, then it has the potential to provide much needed revenue to local communities sharing their landscape with cheetahs and wild dogs and to protected areas, thus contributing to their conservation.
Collisions with fast moving traffic on roads represents a threat to both cheetah and wild dog populations. Both species may use roads to travel and rest, making them particularly vulnerable to road accidents. This is a particular concern where paved roads cross or adjoin major wildlife areas. This threat is likely to increase over the coming decades as African countries improve their infrastructure, unless safe wildlife crossing points are included in road development.