It was considered an endangered species, even extinct. The Sahara cheetah was recently remembered fondly by Algerians. The emblematic animal of Hoggar-Tassili, this vast expanse of desert with an area of more than 800,000 km2, the silhouette of the magnificent spotted feline was captured in the early summer of 2020 using camera traps installed by a team of scientists belonging to the National Office of Cultural Parks of Algeria (ONPCA). “In July 2017, February 2018 and March 2020, three major field missions related to the inventory of the Saharan cheetah were carried out in the Ahaggar and Tassili-n’Ajer parks,” summarizes Abdenour Mousouni, responsible for planning and biodiversity of the Algerian network. cultural parks.
The silhouette of a beautiful spotted feline was captured in early summer 2020 by ONPCA camera traps
The image confirms the real presence of the cheetah, but the species is critically endangered. “We still don’t have enough data to estimate its numbers in Algeria. Only about 200 individuals would remain, scattered across Algeria, Mali and Niger. their survival depends the sustainability of its natural habitats and an integrated conservation plan involving the local population,” said Salah Amokrain, the project’s national director. “Biodiversity preservation of global interest network of cultural parks in Algeria and the current coordinator of international cooperation with United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
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Conservation biology teacher-researcher Farid Belbachir has been studying the species for more than twenty years: “It’s called the Saharan cheetah, but it’s a subspecies from northwest Africa called the gecki. Currently, research is being conducted for its genetic characterization. There are small populations in Northwest Africa, but the area where there is the greatest hope for cheetah conservation is the Hoggar-Tassili complex,” said the scientist who has conducted several field studies.
Golden wolf, Barbary sheep and Rupella fox
It’s not just about cheetahs: Algerian parks in the Deep South are rich in biodiversity. Along with the Amayas, as the Tuareg call them, there are the Dorcas gazelle, the Barbary sheep, the golden wolf, Ruppel’s fox, the jackal, the fennec, and many other species. “The cheetah is certified, but for a panther or a leopard, it’s something else. During a field trip in 2005, we identified a leopard dung, and in my research, evidence suggests its presence based on several characteristics reported by the Tuareg,” says Farid Belbachir.
The striped hyena exists in the region of Timiauin, Tinzahuatin, Taudert, but less often in Ahaggar. There is, of course, the African golden wolf, Ruppel’s fox, fennec, African wild cat and sand cat, ratel, zorilla. Among the herbivores, we can mention the Dorcas gazelle, the rusak hare, the Barbary sheep, the addax, and the dam gazelle, which have disappeared,” Farid Belbachir continues.
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For his part, Abdenur Mousuni emphasizes the three emblematic species that are especially watched: “These are the Barbary sheep, the roe deer and the Saharan cheetah. These species are rare, endangered and protected. » Therefore, Algeria decided to do it Maidan conservation strategy for Saharan cheetahs and prey species such as gazelle and mouflon.
Because the cheetah is at the top of the food chain, by saving these “umbrella species,” PPCA scientists and officials believe they can save all the species in its habitat that allow it to survive. Launched in 2017, the cheetah conservation strategy is implemented by a multidisciplinary team working on the ground.
Large expeditions to Ahaggar and Tassili are organized regularly. “This is a colossal job that requires a large logistical base to implement a scientific protocol,” says Abdenour Mousuni.
The striped hyena, the last large predator
After the disappearance of the Atlas lion and the North African panther, the striped hyena became the last large predator in Algeria. A victim of human predation and the gradual disappearance of its natural habitat, it virtually disappeared before making a timid comeback in recent years. However, this species is mercilessly hunted and killed wherever it is seen or reported. His sad reputation as a corpse digger and a ruthless predator who does not hesitate to attack children or animals forgotten in the fields is in question. However, the striped hyena is actually a humble and solitary scavenger, scavenging its environment for all the carrion it finds in its path during its nocturnal wanderings.
The striped hyena is ruthlessly hunted and killed wherever it is seen or reported
Between 2000 and 2018, Murad Ahmim, a lecturer-researcher at the University of Bejai, a mammal specialist specializing in conservation biology, counted 223 individuals that were deliberately hit or hit by vehicles at night.
“The striped hyena is the target of systematic slaughter in the regions where it is reported because it is confused with the spotted hyena, which does not exist in Algeria and is shown in animal documentaries broadcast on satellite channels as a dangerous predator. At this rate, the species will soon disappear, he warns. If adequate and strict protection measures are not taken, this is the first species that will disappear in Algeria and we will lose the largest Algerian predator that regulates the numbers of others. species “.