Dambari Wildlife Trust’s involvement in carnivore research and conservation dates back to 2001, when the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority mandated us to investigate the population size and status of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in unprotected areas. Under that programme, which concluded in 2010, DWT carried out a multi-faceted approach to cheetah conservation, which included:
- Assessing population numbers via structured interviews and questionnaires, as well as using spoor transects in some areas;
- Determining levels of conflict between farmers and cheetah (and other large carnivores), particularly in Matabeleland South, Midlands and Masvingo provinces;
- Identifying the effects that land use change has on cheetah distribution and numbers, and evaluating the perceptions and attitudes of local people to cheetah and other predators;
- Determining how land resettlement, principally of land previously under wildlife, affected cheetah conservation (see Dr S. Williams’ PhD thesis)
- Developing and disseminating predator-friendly livestock management manuals to subsistence and commercial farmers, and assisting farmers implement methods to reduce conflict with cheetah and other large predators;
- Raising awareness about cheetah, and educating primary school children about the importance of predators in the ecosystem, through developing and distributing Ministry of Education approved teachers’ manuals that used cheetah as a flagship for teaching primary school subjects from English to Mathematics and Science. Under this extensive project, teachers from more than 200 rural primary schools in Matabeleland South Province attended workshops and received the manual.
This information fed into a follow-on project by CCZ which evaluated cheetah population size and distribution across the country. Since 2012, the Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe has taken cheetah research and conservation forward in Zimbabwe.