Wednesday 4 March 2009

Understand Wild Cats

One highly effective way to understand wild cats, specifically cheetahs, is to live with them for a sufficiently long time to become part of their lives, gain their respect and be able to successfully communicate with them. Once communication is set up a degree of direct management can take place over the cheetahs in the wild and the wild, in Namibia, is hostile for the ever dwindling cheetah population because of the steady increase in human population and resultant erosion of cheetah habitat.

So who is this person who has set out to understand and live with cheetahs? He is Olivier Houale, a 28 year old Frenchman, who has spent a considerable time living amongst a group of cheetahs.That takes a lot of guts and I have a lot of admiration for him. He saw off the hostile advances of the cheetahs (and they always challenged him, he said) by sheer bravado, facing off this large wildcat by eye contact, conviction and looking as large as possible by, for example, rasing his hands. This ability for one human being to face down the advances of a cheetah would seem to indicate that simply shooting the animal is unnecessary. The same situation applies for the wild cougar, a wild cat of similar size (about the weight of a human man - male cougars weigh between 130 and 150 lbs). In fact, the cheetah weighs between 75-150 lbs.

As I understand it, he intends (and I presume that he is doing this right now - not sure) to direct the cheetahs (who are currently captive) once in the wild and in so doing, to help protect them from farmers who have a tendency to shoot them as pests. He is also dealing with the farmers, trying it seems, to get them to live in harmony with the cheetah. In Namibia, due to the shrinking wild cat habitat (see cheetah habitat) the wild cat, including the cheetah, often lives on farmland. That, as one can imagine, is not a very clever arrangement as cheetahs will naturally tend to kill livestock. This unhappy state of affairs has resulted in further loses of the cheetah, which is gradually heading for extinction in the wild although rated as VU (vulnerable) by the IUCN Red List (see IUCN Red List for Cats). I always feel that the Red List is too generous in its appraisal and if I am correct it will be because of vested interests in keeping it that way to allow commercial enterprises that use and abuse the wild cats including the cheetah.

I think it is a great and brave idea to live with and understand wild cats. My mind turns to another man who is living with wolves perhaps with the same intentions. The major point that I think Olivier Houale wants to make is that we must stop being at war with wild life, particularly the large animals and precious wild cats and start to learn to live with them. See also Sumatran tiger attacks; which is a demonstration of our war with big cats. It is all in our hands and we are, except for people like Olivier, making a hash of it.

Understand wild cats to wild cat species

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