Published: Tuesday 15 October 1996

Many African economies thrive on tourism that centres on wildlife safaris. Every year, the Masai Mara national park in Kenya is visited by nearly 250,000 people to witness the mass migration of wildlife from Serengeti in Tanzania. But there is a flip side to it. According to Richard Kock, the chief veterinarian for Kenya's Wildlife Service, the influx of camera-toting tourists is interfering with the hunting habits of cheetahs in the park. While hunting, a cheetah is largely dependent on its eyesight and hence it gathers food at dawn and dusk. But it simply cannot go for the kill when it is surrounded by flasing cameras at hunting time.

The cheetahs are so disturbed by this regular breach of privacy that they seem to have developed a stress-related disease similar to aids , which causes their immune system to collapse. According to environmentalists, the cheetah population of the Mara has plunged by around 30 per cent in the last three years.

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