The Big Cats
The Big Cats of Africa
It hardly needs to be said that aside from being on the top rung of the predation ladder, the lion also tops the glamour stakes. Sadly, it does have one formidable enemy in humankind. They were expelled from most parts of the country, now remain almost exclusively in conservation areas.
The third of the big cats of Africa is particularly fascinating. The cheetah is the speed champ, capable of dashes of almost 100km an hour. However, vulnerable to the loss of cubs to other predators, the cheetah’s population is comparatively small and confined in South Africa to the far north (including KNP in the north-east and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the western half of the country), and reserves in KwaZulu-Natal and North West Province.
Another factor limiting the population is low genetic diversity. Today’s cheetahs appear to be descended from a small number of survivors of near extinction in the distant past. As a result, genetic weaknesses are unusually predominant.
Sadly, if nothing is done we may lose those species of the big cats of Africa sometime in the future…