Race for Survival
Over the last 100 years we’ve seen the cheetah population decline from over 100,000 to just 7,000. Today, cheetahs are found in only 23% of their historic African range and are extinct in their Asian range except for a small population in Iran of about 50 individuals.
One of the greatest threats to the cheetah in the wild is human-wildlife conflict. Because in national parks, larger carnivores such as lions, leopards and hyenas steal most of cheetah's kill - over 90 percent of cheetahs live outside protected areas. This means they live alongside human communities, most of which are farmers raising cows, sheep, and goats. Unfortunately, cheetahs and other predators are viewed by farmers not as a valuable component of a thriving ecosystem, but as a threat to their livelihoods. Thus, farmers seeking to protect their livestock shoot or poison cheetahs.
To make matters worse, because cheetahs hunt primarily during the day, farmers see them more often than nocturnal predators, and blame cheetahs for more livestock kills than they are actually responsible for.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
In 1994 Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund
(CCF), created the Livestock Guardian Dog program to address the human-wildlife conflict that threatens the cheetah.
Dr. Marker's research proved that cheetahs do not prefer domesticated livestock when natural prey is available. Thus came her idea to use trained dogs to act as watchdogs over farmer's livestock herds. The Anatolian Shepherd, a dog breed originally from central Turkey, was chosen because it is rugged and large, with superior sight and hearing - to help it protect livestock.
Anatolian Shepherds pups, also known as Kangal dogs, are bred and raised at the CCF Namibia headquarters.The puppies grow up with farm animals including goats and sheep, and form a bond with them. Then, at ten weeks old, they are placed with a Namibian farmer.
The dogs protect livestock from cheetah attacks because they bark loudly whenever they see a cheetah or other predator, scaring the cheetahs away from their herd. Although cheetahs are superb hunters due to their speed - they have a slight build and are quick to avoid a fight. So, farmers with guardian dogs no longer need to kill cheetahs to protect their livestock and livelihoods.
Farmers adopt CCF dogs and participate in education on how to train the dogs. CCF does on-site follow-up visits to ensure the dogs have proper training and medical care, and are settling into their guardian role. Farmers have enthusiastically embraced the program, and there is now a two year waiting list for puppies. CCF had placed nearly 500 dogs by the end of 2013, and CCF research shows that the people’s attitudes towards predators are changing as a result of this and other CCF programs.
The guard dogs have been extremely effective, with farmers who have guard dogs reporting an 80% to 100% reduction in livestock killed by cheetahs and other predators. In the past there were more than 800 to 900 cheetahs killed annually, but that number has been reduced significantly thanks to these dogs' hard work.
Because farmers are so eager to benefit from this new livestock management technique, there is currently a 2-year waiting list for CCF's livestock guardian dogs. Each dog costs CCF $500 per year to raise and care for. These costs include:
- New owner support
- Veterinary care
- and long-term monitoring
If a dog is ever unable to continue working as a guard dog, a loving home is found for the dog as a companion animal.
How You Can Make a Difference
Please consider becoming a conservation partner and assisting in covering half or all of the annual costs of raising and caring for these guardian dogs. Your donation will also support training programs for the farmers. Donations at any level also contribute to the continued observation and care of Guardian Dogs after they have been placed on livestock farms.
ESR and its Partners
Endangered Species Revenge (ESR) is the first wildlife conservation group to produce short films that combine top-notch science, humor and professional animation to teach people about urgent projects to save endangered animals and save coral from climate change.
ESR partners with the world’s top conservation scientists to raise money for their urgent projects. Our scientists lead small to mid-sized grassroots non-profits which spend nearly all of their money on fieldwork, with little overhead, ensuring your donations are working efficiently.
Founded by Dr. Laurie Marker in 1990, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is the global leader in research and conservation of cheetahs. CCF is an international non-profit organization headquartered in Namibia, with operations in the United States, Canada, Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom, and partner organizations in several other nations.
More About the Cheetah
The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal and Africa’s most endangered big cat. Uniquely adapted for speed, the cheetah is capable of reaching speeds greater than 110 kilometers per hour in just over 3 seconds, and at top speed their stride is 7 meters long. With its long legs and very slender body, the cheetah is quite different from all other cats and is the only member of its genus, Acinonyx. The cheetah’s unique morphology and physiology allow it to attain the extreme speeds for which it’s famous, and is often referred to as the greyhound of cats.
Our goal is to place as many dogs as we can. One dog can protect an entire herd of livestock for years, saving the lives of countless cheetahs.
With your help, we can grow our efforts and win the race to save the cheetah.