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World Wildlife Day – Big Cat Research at UC

Research student David Thuo is doing his bit to support this year’s World Wildlife Day theme of “Big Cats: predators under threat”. Kenyan-born wildlife biologist and UC student is using genetic tools to aid cheetah conservation in Kenya.

“Cheetahs are an iconic animal of the African plains, however conflict with humans is one of many pressures leading to a drastic decline in numbers. We need to raise awareness about the plight of big cats, and dedicating World Wildlife Day to this cause will help educate people about it,” says David.

Kenyan land owners often see cheetahs as a threat to domestic livestock, and will kill them to protect their animals. But maybe cheetahs are not the culprit? That’s what David wants to find out.

Photo credit: Mara Cheetah Project

David has collected scats from Kenyan cheetahs and will use genetic analysis to determine their diet, as well as taking tissue samples to develop a high resolution genetic tool that can be used to differentiate cheetahs and assess their health and population structures. David hopes this information will be used to influence cheetah management policy and education programs.

David is collaborating with various local government and conservation groups in Kenya, including training wildlife rangers, resource assessors and research assistants from different organizations on cheetah identification, data and sample collection and sample preservation. He is also analysing cheetah scat samples from those housed at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra as their diet is well known.