Rare photographs show African cheetahs in snowstorm

For two days, Kirsten Frost had tracked the radio-collared female cheetah through the stony hills of Rogge Cloof Nature Reserve, the coldest place in South Africa, and now the snowstorm was intensifying.

Straining his eyes through the falling flakes, he glimpsed the wildcat’s face, the rest of her body lost in the whitewashed landscape.

“It felt surreal: Am I really viewing a cheetah in the snow at the southern tip of Africa?” Frost, a Cape Town-based wildlife photographer, told National Geographic by email while on the road. “I realized this was a moment few have ever experienced and a moment in nature I’ll never forget.”

His resulting photographs, taken in August of a female nicknamed Mona by conservationists and two males, are likely the second-known records of African cheetahs in snow, says Vincent van der Merwe, who manages cheetah reintroduction for the South Africa-based nonprofit Endangered Wildlife Trust. Van der Merwe’s team took what he believes was the first photo in snow in 2014 in Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.

Both instances show cheetahs reintroduced to private game reserves in parts of their native range. Those reintroductions are key to a conservation strategy designed to protect the dwindling species while giving tourists a chance to see them. With about 7,000 total left in the wild, the cheetah is considered vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

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Source: National Geographic