Ahaggar National Park - The Biodiverse Home of the Saharan Cheetah
Algeria's Ahaggar National Park covers an area of approximately 450,000 square kilometers in the Saharan Algeria Region in the extreme south of the country. The closest populated area near the park, which lies in a desert mountainous zone, is the oasis city of Tamanrasset. The Ahaggar Mountains, also known as the Hoggar, dominate the park, with the highest peak being Mount Tahat, measuring 3,003 meters above sea level.
The Ahaggar Mountain range consists mainly of jagged volcanic rock, and rainfall in the area is sporadic. Nevertheless, the biodiversity in the area is excellent, with a number of animal species that have died off in other parts of the Sahara still being found in the Ahaggar National Park. This is thought to be due to the fact that the climate in the park is less extreme than that experienced in most other areas of the Sahara. The park forms part of the West Saharan montane xeric woodlands – an ecoregion of isolated refuges where plants and animals survive the otherwise harsh conditions of the Saharan desert. This ecoregion extends across the Tassili-n-Ajjer, Ahaggar and Air massifs in Saharan Algeria.
Interestingly, the Cheetah Conservation Fund, which monitors populations of the globally threatened species, conducted a survey of the Ahaggar National Park in 2005 to in an attempt to find out whether cheetahs still inhabited the park. Although it proved difficult to establish exact numbers, it was confirmed that Saharan cheetahs were living in the park, a fact that was backed up by nomadic herders who complained that cheetahs were a problem for their livestock. Other internationally important species resident in the Ahaggar National Park include the Dorcas gazelle and Barbary sheep.