Why the Cheetah Paw?

Clive Walker, Founder of the EWT


Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

“An Endangered species which has declined through loss of range, the insidious fur trade and shooting due to stock predation.”

The choice of the Cheetah as the EWT’s logo was an obvious one for me. My first encounter with this graceful, swift feline was as a game ranger in Bechuanaland in 1966. I came across a young, tame female in the garden of a farmer. Her mother had been killed because of predation on the farmer’s sheep before he realised she had a young cub with her. The cheetah was on a chain attached to a long wire, and she had the run of the large lawn. I got right up close to her and was deeply struck by the beautiful large eyes and the continuous purring sound.

My next encounter was after visiting the Africana Library on Diagonal Street in downtown Johannesburg one Saturday afternoon in 1972. I was horrified to spot cheetah skins hanging like washing on a line in a ‘muthi’ shop. Even more so when the owner was happy to sell me one and advised me he could get more. The memory of it was etched in my brain as I thought back to my first encounter in Bechuanaland. I continued to prepare for an exhibition scheduled for October of the same year and included in my subjects a pair of cheetahs with the objective of following David Shepherd’s idea of a print appeal and at my own cost had 250 prints produced and announced as a CHEETAH APPEAL as James Clarke of the STAR newspaper opened the exhibition at the Lister Art Gallery in Bree street, Johannesburg on 1 October 1973. James was later to become a founding trustee of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. All numbered prints were sold at R20.00 each. After printing expenses, the appeal raised a nice sum of R4,500 to be donated for cheetah conservation.

As I write this today, in 2023, the cheetah is considered vulnerable, and with the transformation of the wildlife industry, it is in a far better position today than back in 1973, thanks in no small part to the work of the EWT and private landowners.

The original logo was adapted from the publication by the Late Dr Rheay Smithers, Mammals of Southern and Northern Rhodesia. Whilst accurate in dimension, the original paw lacked the small indentation between the back pad. This was rectified during Dr Ledger’s time after I retired in 1985.

Filmstrip with EWT logos over 50 years