Locally Extinct Cheetah Spotted on Dirt Road in Eswatini, Africa after 42 Years
A remarkable discovery has been made in Eswatini, Africa, where a cheetah, believed to be locally extinct for over four decades, was recently spotted on a dirt road. The sighting, made by a park official, has raised hopes for the survival and conservation of these majestic creatures in the region.
Locally Extinct Cheetah in Eswatini, Africa
The cheetah was encountered by Park Warden Sonnyboy Mtsetfwa as he was traveling through the Mlawula Nature Reserve. This rare sighting on Saturday, September 16, marks the first confirmed sighting of a cheetah in the area in 42 years, surprising both Mtsetfwa and conservationists alike. Captured in photographs, the cheetah can be seen cautiously moving forward on the muddy road, scanning the surroundings.
In one image, it appears as though the cheetah is gazing toward the car, perhaps intrigued by the unexpected encounter. When the Mlawula Nature Reserve was established in 1976, cheetahs were believed to have already vanished from the country. Although a mating pair of cheetahs was reintroduced in 1981, it was assumed that their attempt to establish a territory in the park had failed.
However, the recent sighting suggests otherwise. Park officials now suspect that the cheetah spotted by Mtsetfwa is a member of a family residing in the reserve, possibly connected to the breeding pair that was reintroduced in the past. To confirm this, additional camera traps will be deployed in the vicinity of the encounter.
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Cheetahs, renowned as the fastest land mammals, have a top speed of 60 to 70 mph. Despite their iconic status as wild cats found worldwide, cheetahs are listed as vulnerable and are facing population declines. In Africa, their population is particularly sparse, with cheetahs barely remaining in 6% of their former habitat in eastern Africa. Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has been devoid of cheetahs for 42 years.
Bordered by Mozambique to the east and South Africa to the south, west, and north, the country’s Mlawula Nature Reserve is situated close to the Eswatini-Mozambique border. Illegal trade poses a significant threat to the survival of wild cheetah populations. These magnificent creatures are often captured illegally and sold as exotic pets or poached for their valuable skin. Live trafficking is particularly prevalent in East Africa, where it is likely to have a detrimental impact on cheetah populations.
Additionally, conflicts arise between cheetahs and farmers when the cats attack livestock due to a decline in their natural prey. The rediscovery of a cheetah in Eswatini brings new hope for the conservation of these beautiful animals. Efforts to protect their habitats and combat illegal trade are crucial in ensuring the long-term survival of cheetahs in Africa.