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An important part of the rangewide conservation planning process is documenting current knowledge regarding the distribution and status of cheetah and African wild dog within their known historical range. At regional workshops participants are requested to create maps using their combined knowledge. To standardise and allow for complete range wide maps to be developed after all regional workshops have been held, the following range categories were used
Detailed Description of Range Categories
Point locations and other available data indicating the presence of cheetah and wild dogs were used to delineate geographic range polygons. All land formerly occupied by each species was considered to fall inside their respective historical range. For some areas, detailed historical data on distribution were available; elsewhere, historical distribution was estimated based on the species' broad habitat requirements. Neither cheetah nor wild dogs still occupy all parts of their historical range. Hence, present-day data was used to divide the historical range for each species into several types of range categories (Figure 1)
Figure 1: Possible dispositions of different types of geographic range on an imaginary map
Land where the species was known to be still resident. This recognised the knowledge that both cheetah and wild dogs have excellent dispersal abilities, meaning that not every point location indicates the presence of a resident population; some may indicate transient dispersing animals. Resident range was defined as areas where (i) the species has been regularly detected over a period of several years; (ii) there was evidence of breeding (e.g. young cheetah cubs sighted, or wild dog pups or dens recorded); and (iii) for wild dogs, there were sightings of complete packs (groups containing members of both sexes, usually >3 animals) rather than small groups (?3 animals), or single-sex groups, which are likely to be dispersal groups.
Land where the species may still be resident, but where residency had not been confirmed in the last 10 years. Usually these would be areas which contain suitable habitat and prey, but which have had little or no ground-based surveying in recent years (aerial surveys are unlikely to detect either species). Some areas were considered to constitute possible range because only unconfirmed reports were available (e.g. reports from inexperienced observers) or there were only reports of transient individuals or groups.
Land where the species is currently extinct. This can be further divided into:
- Unrecoverable range: land where habitat has been so heavily modified or fragmented (e.g. by cultivation or urbanisation) as to be uninhabitable by resident animals for the foreseeable future.
- Recoverable range: land where habitat and prey remain over sufficiently large areas that either natural or assisted recovery of the species might be possible within the next 10 years if reasonable conservation action were to be taken. In designating areas of recoverable range, participants were asked to bear in mind that both species live at low densities and travel very widely, so they would rarely be recoverable in small areas (<3,000km2) unless very intensive management (e.g. predator-proof fencing and active population management) could be implemented.
Land where the species may not be resident, but which dispersing animals may use to either move between occupied areas, or to recolonise extirpated range. Such connections might take the form of 'corridors' of continuous habitat or 'stepping stones' of habitat fragments.
Land where the species' status is currently unknown and cannot be inferred using knowledge of the local status of habitat and prey.
In addition to these categories, a seventh category was developed in the course of the southern Africa workshop, and used for wild dogs only:
Natural habitat used intermittently by wild dogs, but known not to be used regularly, providing no connection to areas of resident, possible or unknown range, and unlikely to be made suitable for use by resident wild dog populations through any reasonable form of management. Such areas are likely to be natural habitats that are only marginally suitable for wild dogs (e.g. desert). Marginal range was not included in the historical range.
In principle, conservation activities for these species (e.g. management interventions, surveys, monitoring) might be conducted in any of these types of geographic range. Even in unrecoverable range, outreach and education activities may be vital for long-term conservation efforts on neighbouring lands.