OTJIWARONGO, Namibia — Scientists saw cheetahs in southern Angola for the first time in three decades since the now-ended civil war devastated the animal's habitat, a conservation group said Wednesday.
After a three day survey in the arid Iona district of Angola bordering Namibia, cheetah specialist Laurie Marker reported the sighting of the fast, spotted, leopard-like wild feline.
Male cheetahs leave their droppings on trees as territorial markings, Marker reported to the Cheetah Conservation Fund, an international research organization based in this northern Namibian town.
"We found nine different marking trees," he said. In one, he saw cheetah dung. Then "two male cheetahs ran out. It was very exciting – there are cheetahs in Angola," he said.
The cheetah preys on deer and buck that have also returned to the 3.8 million acre (1.6 million hectare) Iona wilderness area designated a nature preserve.
The conservation group said that Marker used a Global Positioning System to record locations where he found likely cheetah prey, including one herd of about 1,000 springbok, a southern African gazelle known for jumping and running at speed when startled.
The group said recent unconfirmed sightings of cheetahs prompted Alvaro Baptista, the Angolan owner of one of the only bush camps near Iona, where roads and infrastructure were destroyed in the war, to ask for help in developing a survival plan for Angola's once abundant cheetahs.
The civil war ended in 2002.