Cheetahs persist in the wild in the remote Awdal region of Somaliland
- February 3, 2023
- by Marker L. L., Connolly, E, Saed, A. H., Reasoner, E, Aden, K. Y., Cristescu B.
Although cheetahs Acinonyx jubatus were once widespread in the Horn of Africa, their presence in Somaliland has not been confirmed since 2010, and they have been presumed extirpated in recent years. During 2021–2022 the Cheetah Conservation Fund and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in Somaliland carried out two rapid surveys in the Awdal region of western Somaliland to investigate the status of the cheetah in this area. The team collected socio-ecological data from 26 villages for a total of 13 days. In both years people from most villages reported sightings of cheetahs, and the team also received multiple reports of predation on small livestock (sheep and goats) by cheetahs. We also investigated two reports of recent cheetah presence. This led to finding a set of confirmed cheetah tracks, which we followed for > 250 m, and two large feline scrapes, both approximately the size expected of a cheetah. In 2020 and 2022 we received direct evidence of cheetah presence in the form of mature cheetah carcasses. In the first instance, the cheetah was reported as having been shot in defence of livestock, and in the second instance, two cheetahs were apparently poison-baited. Both reports were accompanied by photographic records. This combination of social and ecological data means that we can confirm the recent presence of wild cheetahs in western Somaliland. We will now prioritize work with local communities to understand and mitigate human–cheetah conflict and continue to investigate the distribution of cheetahs throughout Somaliland.