ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A little more than 7,000 cheetahs remain in the wild. While Albuquerque may be far from them, two locals are helping in their conservation efforts. Cheetahs may be lightning fast, but that’s not the reason a wild sighting is rare.
“They’re not easy to find in the wild,” said Kevin Dooley, a local wildlife photographer who’s been photographing cheetahs for more than 12 years. “There’s only about 7,000-7,200 remaining wild cheetahs in the world.”
Dooley, who owns Idube Photo Safaris, takes people on photo safaris around the world. In a recent trip to Africa, he spotted a mother cheetah and her cubs make their way to a watering hole and got the photo of a lifetime.
“Just as the stars were starting to disappear, and the sun was coming up, the mother cheetah appeared out from behind the bushes and she smelled and she looked around,” said Dooley, who observed the mother and her five cubs make their way to the watering hole. “The cheetah cubs were drinking and the mom had her head over the top of the cubs and she was just scanning the area, taking the occasional drink.”
The photo is now featured in the new book, Remembering Cheetahs. All proceeds will go to conservation efforts.
“We can travel to Brazil or Peru and learn about conservation in different locations,” said Lisa Moore, senior zookeeper at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. “The Cheetah Conservation Fund, they teach the locals that cheetahs can be a good thing.”
Moore got to work with the CCF in Namibia and teach farmers and villages about saving them, rather than killing them. Even half a world away, she hopes New Mexicans can be inspired — either from the book or the zoo — to help save the cheetahs or even the animals in our own backyards.
“A lot of the animals you see in zoos, in our captive population, they did not come directly from the wild,” said Moore. “You might grab a little bit of excitement and you go, ‘that was so neat,’ and then it sparks you to go, ‘what can I do.'”
Dooley’s excited to see where this latest project goes next. He says thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, there are more cheetahs in the wild now, than when he first started photographing them.
“That photograph is going to be out there, collecting funds and encouraging people to love these animals,” said Dooley. “It’s an honor to be able to do anything I can to help wildlife. I love being out there, I love photographing it, and I want it to be with us forever.”
The book featuring Dooley’s photo, Remembering Cheetahs, is available for order now. The book was funded through a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.