Cheetah Hunting in Namibia
Cheetah Hunting in Namibia
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is an atypical member of the cat family, the genus name, Acinonyx means "no-move-claw" in Greek, while the species name jubatus means "maned" in Latin, a reference to the mane found in Cheetah cubs. The word Cheetah is derived from the Hindu word "chita" which means "the spotted one". Cheetahs have solid spots as opposed to the rosette markings seen on Leopards. Every Cheetah has a unique pattern of markings similar to a human fingerprint. The actual black spot is softer than the rest of the coat hair which is more coarse. Some Cheetahs will also have longer hair in the neck area, a bit of a mane.
Even though Cheetahs are still sport hunted in some parts of Africa, the Cheetah is well protected legally at an international level. On 1 July 1975, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) placed the Cheetah on Appendix I, making international trade in live Cheetah or Cheetah products illegal. Local laws support CITES in many countries where Cheetahs still live. In the U.S., the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) first listed the Cheetah on 2 June 1970, and is currently designated as Vulnerable or Endangered in its entire range.
The Cheetah is a protected species in Namibia, but people, mostly farmers and game ranchers, are allowed to remove Cheetahs if they pose a threat to livestock. Limited international trade in live animals and skins is permitted from Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. From January 1993, CITES approved export quotas for Cheetahs from Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa however the USFWS refuse to this day to issue any import permits. The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), the Namibian Professional Hunters Association (NAPHA) and the Safari Club International (SCI) have been lobbying CITES to reclassify the Cheetah from endangered to threatened to allow for the importation of the Cheetah into the United States.
Captured Cheetah waiting to be processed for data collection, tagged, radio collared and relocated by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia. Cheetahs make chirping sounds and hiss or spit when angered or threatened. They purr very loudly when content.
Rescued Baby Cheetah... This 3 month old female Cheetah was found quite thin wandering around by herself very hungry. She was relocated to a Cheetah Conservation facility near Windhoek as she would not be able to survive on her own without her mother. Young Cheetah rely on their mother's completely for food for the first year and stay with their mothers until about 18 months of age.
It is legal to hunt a Cheetah in Namibia; however the U.S., as well as some other countries, does not permit the importation of a Cheetah hunting trophy. Canada, South America, Mexico as well as most countries in Europe, such as Spain, France and Russia will permit the importation of a Cheetah trophy.
Hunting Cheetah with a bow is legal in Namibia, although it is very difficult to do as it requires both skill and lots of luck.
This is the first Cheetah taken with a bow in Namibia. World renowned bowhunter Steve Kobrine took this Cheetah with a 75 yard shot.
To legally export a Cheetah trophy out of Namibia, a CITES export permit from Namibia and a CITES import permit of the home country is required. Your hunting outfitter will have to submit at least 14 days prior to the commencement of the hunt an application in your name for a Cheetah trophy hunting permit to the Permit Office of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). This basically means that if you end up taking a Cheetah without this special permit in hand during your hunting safari that you will not be able to obtain a CITES export permit to export the trophy. Currently, a hundred and fifty Cheetahs per year are allowed to be exported from Namibia.
Number one SCI Cheetah awaiting confirmation.
A Cheetah hunt is challenging because a Cheetah territory is vast, the home range for a male Cheetah in Namibia is over 2,000 square kilometers and 3,000 square kilometers for females, so they are constantly on the move and do not usually stay in one area for too long. Typical cattle and game fences are not able to prevent Cheetahs from traveling their home range. Cheetahs will use passages dug out by other animals particularly Warthog, river beds and eroded areas under fences, as well as climb over low fences and as the old saying about cats goes, as long as it can fit is head through, the rest of his body will follow. The only way that a Cheetah is a "resident" Cheetah is that it is being kept in an enclosure which it cannot escape from.
Cheetahs have excellent camouflage that help them stalk their prey to allow it to get within range for the final high speed chase. This camouflage makes them very difficult to spot, it's quite possible to just pass them by without even noticing them...
Even more challenging is the fact that a Cheetah only eats freshly killed meat so they don't respond to baiting as is commonly used for Leopard. However if you happen to come across a freshly killed antelope by Cheetahs, the chances of the Cheetahs coming back to eat their kill is very high, even if they have seen or smelled you. This is a very fortunate situation and a well placed simple makeshift hide should be quickly put together on the spot for an opportunity to see them return to their kill within a pretty short period of time.
Cheetah on a fresh kill, the ideal opportunity for a lucky hunter.
Suffice it to say that Cheetah hunts are mostly done on an encounter basis, it does take a bit of luck to encounter them, usually while traveling long distances by car over a territory, some tracking can also be conducted although the Cheetah is a particularly challenging animal to track for a variety of reasons. Hunting can also be done from a blind at a waterhole or known areas frequented by Cheetahs such as particular plains, play trees and scat rocks which can increase tremendously the chance of a successful Cheetah hunt. Hunting Cheetahs with dogs is prohibited in Namibia.
In Namibia, Cheetahs use play trees, usually camel thorns tress with sloping trunks and large horizontal limbs, to observe their surroundings and mark the area, a perfect location to encounter them.
Aside from play trees, Cheetahs also use elevated areas such as rock formation and termite mounts as their preferred hanging and spotting grounds. These mounds are also referred to as scat rocks as they like to leave scat as markings. These are ideal places to check for Cheetah activity.
Cheetahs enjoy traveling on roads and will walk along fences for quite some distance, making it an ideal place to track activity and movement into an area.
Plains also are a huge part of their hunting ground and a definite place to scout for Cheetahs during the times of the day when they are most likely to be actively hunting.
Waterholes are a place where Cheetahs can be encountered at any time during the day, even if they do not come specifically to drink.
No hunt should ever be guaranteed but considering the challenging nature of a Cheetah hunt no guarantee or certainty should EVER be spoken of or suggested and you should be aware that any hunting outfitter who assures you of success for a Cheetah hunt is most certainly doing something unethical in his methods or practices.
Cheetahs track after a light rain, by the claw marks you can easily differentiate it from a Leopard track. Cheetahs are the only cats with non retractable claws like a dog, their claws get worn down slightly when walking and running and as such they are not as sharp as most cats. The exception is the dew claw which does not come in to contact with the ground when walking or running and due to this fact is very sharp.
The percentage of chance by the Namibian Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA) to take a Cheetah in Namibia on a safari is 20 percent. To assess the percentage of chance to take a Cheetah while hunting in Namibia is certainly difficult as so many variables come into play but I would agree with that number as long as a good area and experienced hunting outfitter specifically for Cheetah has been chosen and that a minimum of 12 to 14 days of hunting is booked on a plains game hunt with the Cheetah as the priority.
Cheetahs are found throughout Namibia including the Namib desert in the extreme west, however some areas in Namibia have much higher densely populated areas for Cheetah making them better to hunt. Cheetah densities vary much according to prey availability, in Namibia, eastern Otjozondjupa and Omaheke regions are believed to have the highest Cheetah densities. Ninety five percent of the Namibian Cheetah population lives amongst farming areas.
There is no particular time of the year that is necessarily considered better to hunt a Cheetah as Cheetahs travel their home range throughout the year, however the latter part of the year June through November, which is the drier winter and spring months, may increase the chance of taking one a bit. This is true for for several reasons, during these months of the hunting season the vegetation is not as dense, the grass has thinned out and is not as tall which makes Cheetah easier to see. Cheetah are generally considered to be an animal of open country and grass lands, this impression is probably due to the relative ease of sighting the Cheetah in the shorter grass however Cheetahs use a wider variety of habitats and are found often in dense vegetation and even in mountainous terrain. Another reason is that water availability is also much more limited during this time of the year, making the possibility to encounter one from a hide at a waterhole a lot more probable especially if the Cheetah activity is high in the area. Their territories are often located in areas where there is a rich supply of wild game and water. Cheetahs prey on a variety of species from game birds and rabbits to small antelopes and the young of larger antelopes. Therefore hunting them during the later part of the year, as the young from that year have grown up, makes food availability more challenging, it forces them to be more on the go and in the open as the easy prey is no longer available thus increasing the chances of seeing one.
Hunting at night in Namibia is prohibited however since Cheetahs are diurnal, more active during the day than night, it is the perfect situation to hunt one. In warm weather, they move around mostly during the early morning and late in the afternoon when the temperatures are cooler however one can truly be encountered at any time during the day. A Cheetah's day is dedicated to hunting and trying to stay cool when it gets very hot. Should the opportunity at a mature Cheetah present itself, one will have a very small window of opportunity to take the shot, as they do not normally stick around for long enough. The interaction can be so brief that it may be difficult to discuss much with your PH at that time, so the discussion of certain potential circumstances should be sorted out before hand to avoid any missed opportunities or confusion. The client must be prepared and ready to shoot to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. Shooting distances will vary greatly depending upon the environment but a 300 yard (300 meter) shot on an open plain should not be out of the question should one be comfortable with it. Cheetahs are not very hardy animals so the smallest caliber allowed in Namibia for plains game, a 7 mm (.284) caliber along with a good bullet should do just fine.
The vertical cross hair of your scope will entirely cover a Cheetah if you are looking at it straight on, from its' front or back, while standing or sitting at 300 yards, looking the size of a toothpick making it a difficult shot.
Both male and female Cheetah are hunted in Namibia, the male is usually slightly larger than the female, but there are no major differences in appearance between the male and female cheetah. Adult body length 105 to 152 cm, tail length 51 to 87 cm, shoulder height 62 to 86 cm and weight 31 to 64 kg. It is very difficult to differentiate between the two and aside from being able to see the testicles of a male Cheetah there is no reliable method of judgment. Even if time allows, not seeing the testicles does not necessarily mean that it is a female as their broad and heavy tale very often conceals the "jewels".
A Cheetah's heavy and broad tale will often conceal its' gender.
Here you can clearly see the small and close to the body "cat like" testicules on this male Cheetah.
Here you can identify the sex of this male Cheetah however in nature circumstances will rarely afford you the opportunity to get this perfect view.
Barely noticeable, the gender of this male Cheetah is not obvious, making differentiating between female or male very challenging.
Cheetahs live solitary and in groups which consist of mothers and cubs, coalitions (males) and sub-adults just after independence. Sub-adult groups may consist of both females and males, but eventually split up when the individuals become sexually mature. Male coalitions are formed when male siblings remain together in a group. Occasionally, unrelated males form coalitions as well.
Here is a young Cheetah that is almost finish getting rid of his "cub days" mantle of gray hair on his back. Cheetahs are completely dependent on their mother until the age of about 18 months. Cheetahs are sexually mature at around 2 years of age.
Raised from a cub, Baloo our resident pet Cheetah who is no longer with us.
Life With An Indian Prince - Hunting With Cheetahs (1939)
Ancient Egyptians often kept Cheetahs as pets, and also tamed and trained them for hunting. Cheetahs would be taken to hunting fields in low-sided carts or by horseback, hooded and blindfolded, and kept on leashes while dogs flushed out their prey. When the prey was near enough, the Cheetahs would be released and their blindfolds removed. This tradition was passed on to the ancient Persians and brought to India, where the practice was continued by Indian princes into the twentieth century. Cheetahs continued to be associated with royalty and elegance, their use as pets spreading just as their hunting skills were. Other such princes and kings kept them as pets, including Genghis Khan and Charlemagne, who boasted of having kept Cheetahs within their palace grounds. Akbar the Great, ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605, kept as many as 1000 Cheetahs. As recently as the 1930s the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, was often photographed leading a Cheetah by a leash.
Here is an incredible video segment from the film Life With An Indian Prince - Hunting With Cheetahs (1939)
Two young Americans traveled to India to photograph and film the falconry practices of Indian royalty for National Geographic and in addition to hunting with birds of prey, members of the royal party used to hunt with Cheetahs. This sport and way of life has disappeared into history. This rare footage is quite unique and most probably the only of its kind.
Cheetah Annual CITES Export Quotas
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) annual CITES export quotas for live specimens and hunting trophies: