Durban – In the last 100 years, 90% of the wild cheetah population has been lost – now there are only 7,100 left in the wild. According to Zulu legend, the “tear marks” on a cheetah originate from a female cheetah who lost her cubs to a lazy hunter. The hunter lay under the tree admiring the cheetah’s hunting prowess, which gave him the idea of stealing her cubs so they could hunt for him.
When the mother returned home to find her babies had gone, she cried so long and hard that permanent “tear marks” were formed. The story has two endings: the chief of the village exiled the lazy hunter and the cubs were returned to their mother; or the sadder ending in that the cubs were gone. The scientific reason for the cheetah’s “tear marks” is that these markings play an important role in protecting the animal from the sun’s glare while hunting, in what is often a high speed chase.
Perhaps there is a lesson in the story because cubs being taken for pets is now one of the main threats to the survival of cheetahs in the wild.
This week, the coffee table book Remembering Cheetahs was launched, the fifth in a series of fundraising photography books Remembering Wildlife. The series was created by British wildlife photographer and conservationist, Margot Raggett, and the book includes images of the cheetahs from some of the world’s top wildlife photographers. Speaking to the Independent on Saturday from the UK this week, Raggett confirmed that all the profits from the sale of the book would go to the conservation of the species.