Skip to main content

Saharan cheetah Acinonyx jubatus hecki, a ghostly dweller on Niger's Termit massif

  • Claudio Sillero-Zubiri (a1), Susana Rostro-García (a1), Dylan Burruss (a2), Alkabouss Matchano (a3), Abdoulaye Harouna (a3) and Thomas Rabeil (a3)...

The Saharan cheetah Acinonyx jubatus hecki, once broadly distributed across north-western Africa, now occurs in only 9% of its former range and is categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The Saharan cheetah is rare and threatened but there is a lack of reliable data on its population status and distribution. We report sightings of cheetahs in the Termit & Tin Toumma National Nature and Cultural Reserve of Niger, recorded using three methods: camera-trap surveys, sign surveys and interviews with local people. We recorded three individuals in camera-traps, three direct sightings of lone individuals, 43 distinct cheetah tracks, and one cheetah scat, which suggest a resident population. Most respondents had negative attitudes towards carnivores, including the cheetah. Paradoxically, local nomads reported no conflict with the cheetah and perceived that the number of cheetahs was declining. Attitudes towards carnivores were correlated with respondents’ age and level of education. Efforts to reduce killing of carnivores and their prey are needed but it is equally important for conservation initiatives to focus on increasing local knowledge about wildlife through education, particularly targeted at the younger generation. Our findings highlight the benefits of using various techniques for recording the presence of a rare carnivore.

Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail
Hide All
Balme G.A., Hunter L.T.B. & Slotow R. (2009) Evaluating methods for counting cryptic carnivores. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 73, 433441.
Belbachir F. (2008) Acinonyx jubatus ssp. hecki. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species v. 2014.3. Http:// [accessed 4 November 2013].
Busby G.B.J., Gottelli D., Wacher T., Marker L., Belbachir F., De Smet K. et al. (2009) Genetic analysis of scat reveals leopard Panthera pardus and cheetah Acinonyx jubatus in southern Algeria. Oryx, 43, 412415.
Caro T. (2013) GENUS Acinonyx Cheetah. In Mammals of Africa. Volume V. Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids and Rhinoceroses (eds Kingdon J. & Hoffmann M.), Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK.
Charruau P., Fernandes C., Orozco-terWengel P., Peters J., Hunter L., Ziaie H. et al. (2011) Phylogeography, genetic structure and population divergence time of cheetahs in Africa and Asia: evidence for long-term geographic isolates. Molecular Ecology, 20, 706724.
Claro F., Leriche H., Van Syckle S., Rabeil T., Hergueta S., Fournier A. & Alou M. (2006) Survey of the cheetah in W National Park and Tamou fauna reserve, Niger. CAT News, 45, 47.
Claro F. & Newby J. (2005) The Massif du Termit: the last sanctuary for Sahelo-Saharan wildlife? Oryx, 39, 120123.
Claro F. & Sissler C. (2003) Saharan cheetahs in the Termit region of Niger. CAT News, 38, 2324.
Dragesco-Joffé A. (1993) Le Guépard saharien, un Félin égaré en enfer. In La Vie Sauvage au Sahara. Delachaux et Niestlé, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Farhadinia M.S., Akbari H., Mousavi S.-J., Eslami M., Azizi M., Shokouhi J. et al. (2013) Exceptionally long movements of the Asiatic cheetah Acinonyx jubatus venaticus across multiple arid reserves in central Iran. Oryx, 47, 427430.
Giazzi F. (1996) La Réserve Naturelle Nationale de l'Air et du Ténéré (Niger). MH/E, WWF et UICN, sous la direction de F. Giazzi, Gland, Switzerland.
Hunter L. & Barrett P. (2011) Carnivores of the World. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA.
IUCN SSC (2012) Regional Conservation Strategy for the Cheetah and African Wild Dog in Western, Central and Northern Africa. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
Krausman P.R. & Morales S.M. (2005) Acinonyx jubatus . Mammalian Species, 771, 16.
Marnewick K., Funston P.J. & Karanth K.U. (2008) Evaluating camera trapping as a method for estimating cheetah abundance in ranching areas. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 38, 5965.
Nowell K. & Jackson P. (1996) Wild Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
Rabeil T. (2003) Distribution potentielle des grands mammifères dans le Parc du W au Niger. PhD thesis. Université Paris Diderot, Paris, France.
Rabeil T., Newby J. & Harouna A. (2008) Conservation of Termit and Tin Toumma (Niger). Annual Report for 2007 of the Sahara Conservation Fund. Sahara Conservation Fund, Mountain Center, USA.
Saleh M.A., Helmy I. & Giegengack R. (2001) The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus (Schreber, 1776) in Egypt (Felidae, Acinonychinae). Mammalia, 65, 177194.
Sillero-Zubiri C., Burruss D., Matchano A. & Robinson O. (2013) Predation on Livestock and Pastoralists’ Attitudes Towards Wild Carnivores in Termit & Tin-Toumma, East Niger. Sahara Carnivores Project. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, UK. Http:// [accessed 23 March 2015].
Wacher T.J., Newby J., Monfort S.L., Dixon A.M. & Houston W. (2004) Sahelo–Saharan Interest Group (SSIG) Wildlife Surveys. Part 2. Central and South-Eastern Niger (February–March 2002). ZSL Conservation Report No.2. The Zoological Society of London, London, UK.
Walker M. (2010) ‘Ghostly’ Saharan cheetah filmed in Niger, Africa. BBC Earth News. Http:// [accessed 23 March 2015].
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0030-6053
  • EISSN: 1365-3008
  • URL: /core/journals/oryx
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 6
Total number of PDF views: 32 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 238 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.