Cheetah Conservation in Somerset West
Renowned as the world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah has the ability to move from a stationary position to 100 km/h within three seconds, and can reach speeds of 120 km/h over distances of around 500 meters. It has been estimated that in the early 1900s around 100,000 cheetahs thrived throughout Africa, as well as in parts of Central Asia and the Middle East. This figure has dwindled to around 7,500 with fewer than a thousand living in South Africa. The cheetah is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Cheetah Outreach program in Somerset West has the goal of “Promoting the survival of the free ranging, Southern African cheetah through environmental education and delivering conservation initiatives”, and visitors will have an opportunity to meet some of the resident Cheetahs during a tour of the facilities. Each has their own story and personality traits and some participate in the centre’s awareness program by greeting visitors at functions and accompanying them on beach walks. Some of the cheetahs travel to off-site venues for events and programs aimed at raising awareness of the conservation status of cheetahs, while demonstrating to members of the public what amazing animals they are.
The majority of South Africa’s cheetah population live outside of game reserves and are therefore in danger of being killed by farmers who are protecting their livestock. In an effort to prevent this from happening, the Cheetah Outreach breeds and trains Turkish Anatolian shepherd dogs to protect livestock, something these hardy dogs have been doing against bears and wolves in the often harsh conditions of the Anatolian Plateau of Turkey for thousands of years. In addition to their strength, size, excellent eyesight, sharp hearing and extraordinary sense of smell, Anatolians have exceptional qualities of protectiveness and trustworthiness. Anecdotes from farmers who are using these dogs to protect their livestock attest to their unwavering loyalty to the flock they have been entrusted with.
Visit the Cheetah Outreach website to find out more about cheetahs, the facility’s public awareness programs and its non-lethal predator control project – and be sure to spend some time there when exploring this beautiful region of South Africa.