Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Laurie Marker started Cheetah Conservation Fund to save the cheetah in Namibia, one of its most important habitats. Since its beginnings as a humble research post, the CCF has grown tremendously and become a real presence on the world conservation stage.
When CCF began tracking cheetahs in 1992, team members used Very High Frequency (VHF) collars. These collars are still widely used and affordable, but they required CCF team members to use a plane for spotting and tracking the cheetahs. Cheetahs could only be tracked for three or four hour stretches, as the plane required frequent refueling, and the wind made for difficult flying. New collars are a significant upgrade—they use GPS technology to send information straight to CCF computers, where information can be downloaded and cheetahs can be tracked on foot. While satellite collars are expensive, it’s no more so than flying and maintaining a plane.
CCF has now captured more than 600 cheetahs, outfitting them with under-the-skin transponders and ear tags, and collared an additional eighty animals. The information this tracking provided has helped to strengthen cheetah conservation and establish predator control methods in conjunction with local farmers and villages. This has contributed to the doubling Namibia’s of cheetah population, making it the cheetah capital of the world.
Although CCF began as a research group, Dr. Marker and her team knew from the beginning that people were an essential part of conservation. CCF has run a 16-year Livestock Guarding Dog Program. Livestock is protected with Kangal dogs and Anatolian shepherds, breeds that have been used as livestock guardians against bears and wolves in Turkey for centuries. Puppies placed with farmers in the area are highly effective, curtailing livestock loss by up to 80 percent. The dogs are so popular that there is now a two-year waiting list now in place for puppies. With less livestock lost, attitudes towards predators like cheetahs are changing, a significant step forward in a region where predators had traditionally been seen as the enemy.
Here’s to another 25 years!
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-Text by Elizabeth Rogers