A rare spotless cheetah, now known as the ‘golden cheetah’, has been photographed around the Nairobi-Amboseli area in Kenya by wildlife artist Guy Combes. Its hugely diluted spots are believed to be as a result of a recessive gene which, according to Mongabay.com, makes this cheetah extremely unusual. The last time the sighting of such a spotless cheetah was recorded was in the 1920s.
Initially, it was thought this unusual colour was as a result of an albino or leucistic variation. The golden cheetah is not alone though. Another unusual cheetah known as the King Cheetah or Cooper’s Cheetah exhibits a rare fur pattern mutation caused by a recessive gene inherited from both parents to give it a ‘blotchy’ appearance.
The King Cheetah was first discovered in Zimbabwe in 1926 and has been seen in the wild only 6 times. Besides Zimbabwe, it has been spoted in Botswana and in the northern part of South Africa’s Transvaal province.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) puts the global population of cheetahs in the wild at less than 10,000 automatically putting the cheetah in its Red List of vulnerable animal species. In Kenya, the situation, it seems, may get even worse as 5,000 acres of an area that supports some of the highest cheetah populations in the country has been fenced-off for the construction of the Konza technology city.
According to an article on Mongabay.com, multiple deaths have already occurred on this fence as it divides a migratory route for zebra, hartebeest, wildebeest and several other species. This brings with it the proliferation of bushmeat as poachers have a feast day collecting dead animals trapped in the fence.
Today, if you drive by the Konza city site you will be met by a rather peculiar site of hundreds of water bottles hang on the fence to lessen the impact of this fence by scaring away the wild animals. The bottles are an initiative by Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK), a not-for-profit organisation that works to promote the conservation of cheetahs through research, awareness and community participation in the country.
If cheetahs in Kenya are to stand a chance, a lot more will need to be done – the bottle fence is a good start but should certainly not be the end. Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.