Slow going at Longleat

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

The lone cheetah we saw at Longleat over Christmas looked in better fettle than the Rhinos that were relentlessly pacing round their enclosure, but it wasn't exactly behaving like a cheetah.  It wasn't, for example, travelling at 29m / second chasing after prey.  This was, in part, because there wasn't any prey, but also because the fences would ensure that such high-speed cheetahing would soon result in high-impact crashes.  Longleat, meanwhile, just wanted us to know about the two cheetah cubs recently born there and its strong conservation credentials.

I was reminded of all this when I read two articles in the Times (also over Christmas).  Both were about our human determination to do the cheetah down – and how well we are managing it.  One began:

"Snares that rip off limbs, poachers trading in skins, wealthy Middle Eastern collectors who pay handsomely for cubs as vanity pets and farmers putting up fences have put at risk the survivial of the world’s fastest animal, the cheetah, a study has found.  The cat has been driven out of 91 per cent of its historic territories and only 7,100 individuals at most remain in the world, according to research led by the Zoological Society of London, Panthera, a charity, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. ..."

The feature contained this information:

  • Zimbabwe used to be home to a third of all cheetahs, but the population has dropped from 1,200 to 170 in 16 years.
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) grants Zimbabwe 50 licences a year for the export of live cheetahs or hunting trophies. ** Can this really be the case? **
  • Cheetah cubs are popular pets in the Gulf states.
  • Hunters pay a trophy fee of between $3,000 and $6,000 to hunt one of the animals.

Inevitably, also, anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism (and feminism, maybe) were never far away at Longleat.  My favourite was the stereotype description of male lions as "lazy", and even a well-known wildlife presenter (on our complimentary CD) was heard to talk of the bullying behaviour of male lions.  Thus I was in despair long before I saw the pathetic cheetah.  Before that, what I'd mostly seen, of course, were lines of cars.

Happy New Year!

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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