I am pleased to welcome you to my ‘Fit Cheetahs’ project! Here you can find information about my cheetah conservation research at Heriot Watt University and how you can help and support my work.

Everybody loves cheetahs! This beautiful and elegant big cat has fascinated us humans for centuries. In ancient Egypt, cheetahs were kept as pets, used for hunting and even worshipped as a deity. ‘Mafdet’ was the first cat goddess, often depicted with the head of a cheetah, and she was revered for her protective and combatant powers.

Nowadays cheetahs are in trouble. The species is in decline and newest research suggests that there are only 7000 wild cheetahs left worldwide. There are many reasons for this, with human-wildlife conflict and the pet trade being the main ones and organisations are working tirelessly to address these problems to save the cheetah. The cheetah is classed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but may well be re-classed as ‘Endangered’ soon. If we don’t want this amazing cat species to die out, we need to help them NOW!!

One big problem for the species is its poor genetic variation, which means that there is very little difference in the genetic material between different individuals. This leads to health problems and ultimately to a further decline of the population.

 ‘Fit Cheetahs’ is a self-funded PhD research project with Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. It is a comparative study of two techniques – DNA analysis and the new Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) by WildTrack – to find out if FIT can indicate relatedness, sex and subspecies of individuals.

The project aims to address the problem of the cheetah’s poor genetic variation by finding a non-invasive way to establish relatedness of individuals. This would improve population monitoring and help with the choice of release sites for any cheetah that needs to be translocated or re-released. If the right release site is chosen, the released cheetah could then contribute to adding new genes to the resident population, thereby increasing their genetic variation and ultimately making them healthier and fitter!

I would like to invite you to share this research journey with me!! Follow Fit Cheetahs on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and I will keep you up to date with interesting developments that are both directly as well as indirectly related to my research. 

You can also support  this important research with a donation. The Science Crowdfunder with Crowd.Science has ended now but you can still donate via PayPal 

If you would like to donate a larger amount and be mentioned as a sponsor on this website, on Fit Cheetahs' social media, in research articles and in the thesis, please contact me directly at larissa@fitcheetahs.com. I am also happy to visit your organisation, company, school or college to hold a talk on cheetah conservation and FIT for a donation. All donations go to 100% into the research!

Please watch the video below for an overview of my cheetah conservation project. I hope you find it informative and feel encouraged to back this important cause.

Thank you for your interest and support!

Larissa Slaney

Wildlife Conservationist and Life Scientist

BSc (Honours) Life Sciences

PhD student (Life Science) in cheetah conservation with Heriot-Watt University, Scotland