The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) was founded in Namibia in 1990, and has been dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild for 29 years now. Started by Dr. Laurie Marker, who began her career working with cheetahs at Wildlife Safari, CCF’s mission is to be the internationally recognized center of excellence in the conservation of cheetahs and their ecosystems.
CCF has developed into a world class research, education and conservation centre set on a private wildlife reserve. CCF’s open-to-the-public facilities include a Model Farm, the Dancing Goat Creamery, Cheetah Museum, The Life Technologies Conservation Genetics Laboratory, and The Haas Family Veterinary Clinic.
One of the greatest threats to the cheetah in the wild is human-wildlife conflict. Over 90 percent of cheetahs live outside protected management areas, meaning that they live alongside human communities. Most of these are made up of commercial and communal farming communities that are raising cows, sheep, and goats, and the loss of even one of their livestock could be devastating. During the 1980’s, livestock and game farmers halved the cheetah population in Namibia, estimating that over 7,000 cheetahs were killed.
To help solve this issue, CCF started and continues to work with farmers and teaches them to investigate instances, develop and implement predator-friendly livestock, and implement wildlife management techniques. Future Farmers of Africa was created to teach farmers with specific coursework to expand their knowledge of various farming techniques and also to help expose them to farmer publications and different agricultural shows. CCF also runs a Farmer Carnivore Help Hotline where farmers across Namibia have 24/7 access to the Cheetah Conservation Fund to freely discuss issues relating to cheetahs and other carnivores. Whether it is wanting to ask questions about a problem animal that may be harassing their livestock, to wanting to gain more information on carnivore ecology, someone is always there to help them through any troubles and provide solutions that benefit both the farmer and the cheetah.
Another Venture for Man’s Best Friend
The Cheetah Conservation Fund has also teamed up farmer’s with their own K9s through their Livestock Guarding Dog Program (LGD). Since beginning in 1994, CCF has bred Anatolian shepherd and Kangal dogs, and places them with Namibian farmers. They adopt the dogs as puppies so they are able to bond with their herd and as they grow, and eventually use their presence and loud bark to scare away potential predators. Farmers who are a part of the LGD program participate in ongoing education to support the dog’s development, and people from CCF do on-site visits to ensure the dogs are settling into their guardian role, and are getting the appropriate medical care.
This cheetah and dog approach to help safely resolve a big part of the conflict has shown amazing results and research has shown that the dogs from the LGD program are highly effective. Livestock loss reduction rates are reported from 80 to 100 percent, and farmers have enthusiastically embraced the program so much that now there is a waiting list to adopt a puppy. The success of CCF’s Livestock Guarding Dog Program has also helped shift people’s attitudes towards predators, and therefore shifting a culture of viewing them as an enemy.
Bringing it back with Bushblok
While increasing the number of cheetahs is vital, if there isn’t any habitat for them to return to, the work will have been done in vain. The lack of habitat available is not only having negative effects both for cheetahs and their prey species, but it is limiting viable farmland for humans and thus fueling the human-wildlife conflict in Namibia even more. Habitat loss, whether due to encroaching thornbush or human development, is consequently one of the top threats to the cheetah in the wild.
CCF developed a plan to target this issue of nature conservation by creating a way to process encroaching bush into high-heat, low-emission, compacted logs for use as a cooking fuel or for home heating, becoming the CCF Bush Project. The bush is harvested by Namibian employees where it is then dried in the sun and fed into a mechanical chipper before being transported to the processing plant where the chips are milled to size. Smaller chips are dried and then passed through an extrusion press. Under heat and pressure, the wood chips bond and are extruded as compacted Bushblok product. The finished logs are then cut to size, bundled, wrapped and labeled for distribution.
If this program continues to grow and take off, the potential is endless. Namibia has over 10 million hectares of woody biomass which could, if harvested correctly, power southern Africa with sustainable energy, along with the opportunity to employ over 5,000 Namibians with a steady and reliable income. Dr. Laurie Marker received the 2008 Intel Tech Environment Award from The Tech Museum and the 2010 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement from the University of Southern California for CCF’s Bushblok project, and they are able to continue to engage for habitat restoration through the Bushblok initiative.
Knowledge is Power
Along with all the amazing hands-on conservation work done all over the world, CCF also provides a resource library filled with fact sheets, research papers, and educational materials that are available to anyone who wants to build their knowledge by learning directly from CCF’s research and education staff. From scientific papers on specific protein concentration in the blood of cheetahs, to “Save the Wild Cheetah” activity sheets, to the International Cheetah Studbook, there is a vast number of resources accessible.
People also have the opportunity to learn about CCF’s mission and participate in all their amazing conservation examples first hand by volunteering at their center in Namibia. Whether you are studying wildlife conservation or conservation biology, or someone with a passion for wildlife and want experience with environmental volunteering, there are many opportunities to participate and a role each person can play in the fight no matter what your background is. CCF Namibia is in need of volunteers with all kinds of backgrounds, including people with business, finance, law, marketing, public relations, event organizing, graphic design, report writing, proposal writing, fundraising and administrative skills.
Some might feel helpless being on the other side of the world or not having the ability to support efforts financially, but everyone has a voice. Every person has the chance to research and learn about the efforts being made for conservation and wildlife. You can be the voice that stands up and informs people that a pet cheetah is a bad idea and do not make good pets or belong in our homes, no matter how majestic they may be. You can share a video on the successful release of cheetahs into the wild and the conservation fund to help inspire others to connect with the cause. You can share what you learn with your family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers. Even what you feel like might be an insignificant task, can still make a great impact for animals and wildlife all over the globe, and even those in your backyard.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Visit www.Cheetah.org to learn more about CCF and how you can help.
“About Us - Cheetah Conservation Fund.” Cheetah Conservation Fund, cheetah.org/.