Combining technology and ancient tracking to save the cheetah | 10/11/2017 | Staff
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A life scientist from the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society is investigating whether technology can be combined with the ancient tracking skills of Namibian hunter-gatherers to help save the cheetah and, eventually, other endangered species.

The research will determine whether the existing Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) can be adapted to find out if individual cheetahs are related. The technique could give wildlife conservationists a cheaper, quicker and non-invasive monitoring technique that will have applications across all endangered species.

Cheetahs - Wild - Species - Numbers - Start

Cheetahs in the wild are, like many species, struggling to survive. With numbers reduced from an estimated 100,000 at the start of last century to around 7,000 today, they are classed as 'vulnerable'.

The project will concentrate on addressing the poor genetic variation of the cheetah, a problem that is often overlooked in conservation projects which instead focus on finding solutions for other important challenges including habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and the pet trade.

Lack - Variability - Species - Health - Problems

The lack of genetic variability among the species leads to inbreeding and health problems, ultimately resulting in a further decline of the population.

Traditional means of establishing genetic relationships between cheetahs are invasive, time consuming and expensive, including DNA analysis from tissue samples such as blood, hair, stool or saliva.

Larissa - Slaney - PhD - Student - Heriot-Watt

Larissa Slaney, a PhD student from Heriot-Watt University, is examining whether the Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) can be adapted to find out if individual cheetahs are related.

Larissa said: "By analysing digital images of their footprints and using some of the knowledge of native trackers, the FIT technology, developed by WildTrack, can already identify cheetahs and other species at the individual, sex and age-class...
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