Extremely rare Saharan cheetah spotted

December 27th, 2010 - 1:30 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 27 (IANS) One of the world’s most elusive cats has finally been photographed after a year-long search by conservationists.

The Saharan cheetah was captured in a series of murky images taken by a night-time camera trap in the deserts of Termit, in Niger, Africa.

Less than 10 of the cats are thought to exist there and almost nothing is known about them except for their ability to survive without a permanent source of water in extremely high temperatures.

Scientists working for the Saharan Conservation Fund (SCF) last week released one of the photographs of the Saharan cheetah taken between July and August this year, reports the Daily Mail.

John Newby, CEO of the SCF project, said: “I think we were more happy than surprised when the images turned up, because we knew cheetahs were in the general area because we had seen their tracks on several occasions.”

“However, the area is so vast that picking up an animal as rare as this always entails a lot of luck and good judgement on where to place the cameras.”

SCF scientists concentrated their efforts on the wildlife refuges of Termit Massif and the neighbouring Tin Toumma desert.

Although conservationists have been working in the area for the last 10 years, the Saharan cheetah has only been spotted three times and never photographed there, until now.

The Saharan cheetah rarely ventures out in the day. Scientists believe its nocturnal habits are down to conserving energy by staying out of the heat.

It appears to have different colour and spot patterns to the more common cheetahs that live in other parts of Africa.

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