CCF brings children closer to the Cheetah

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) last week celebrated the 6th annual International Cheetah Day in Otjiwarongo with children as Namibia continue to lead the world in Cheetah population while everywhere else the numbers are fast dwindling. 

The CFF brought together families and children who were hosted at the Field Research and Education Centre in Otjiwarongo cost-free while being offered a range of activities during the day.

CFF had to acclimatize children with the cheetah environs while they took time to visit trail camera traps set up around the centre with photographs of individual cheetahs, and learned how to distinguish the different spot patterns. 

They tried their hands at playing forensic detective during CCF’s Kill Identification Workshop, learning the different traits to look for to identify which carnivore made the kill, and they put their creative skills to the test colouring pictures for International Cheetah Day and writing short one-page stories. 

CCF’s staff and interns from the University of Namibia (UNAM), the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), and from various countries from over the world set up station tables and shared their knowledge representing CCF’s dynamic programmes and departments such as genetics and ecology with the crowds.

 Cheetah mascots danced and sung as they offered “high-paws” to passing children, and the Cheetah Café baked up delicious chocolate cheetah spotted cookies for all. 

The crowds gathered around in excitement as CCF staff and interns gave an educational presentation during the daily cheetah feeding and watched in awe as the cheetahs came racing into their feeding camps to their meals. 

CCF education staff shared cheetah stories and led visitors through the Cheetah Museum while kids and adults alike got up-close and personal with some of CCF’s Anatolian shepherds that make up their Livestock Guarding Dog Programme along with some of the bottle-raised goats from the CCF Model Farm.

The CFF staff educated them on the important role that the dogs play in ensuring a future for the cheetahs. 

“International Cheetah Day at CCF was an eye opener for the guests and kids that I brought,” shared Victor Shituleni, Ranger, Regional Services and Wildlife: Ministry of Environment and Tourism. 

According to Shituleni, the future of the Cheetah is equally in the hands of the emergent generation and understanding the role the cats play in the food chain is key to their conservation.

“They got to see and learn about cheetahs as having an important role in the food chain. Cheetahs are in danger of becoming extinct and it is very important for future generations to see them this way and want to help protect them

The kids I brought had never seen a cheetah up close before, and today they were able to not just see them, but to learn about the importance of their roles and to see them as more than just enemies,” he said 

In a statement sent to this publication, CFF Founder and Guardian of the Cheetahs in Namibia, Dr. Laurie Marker remarked: “The International Cheetah Day celebration at CCF was a great success and the staff is already looking forward to next year’s celebration, but we want to remind everyone that they are always welcome to the Centre to learn about the incredible work that CCF is involved in on a daily basis.”

The Cheetah Conservation Fund is located 45 km from the town of Otjiwarongo on the D2440 road and its facilities are open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on the 25th of every December.

“Children have to learn, they are inheriting the earth. The number of Cheetahs are now less than 10 000 in the world, so our responsibility is quite big,” she told The Villager in a telephone interview.

 The Centre hosts community members and school groups from Namibia as well as international tourists and groups from all over the world. 

CCF is a Namibian non-profit foundation with the goal of working with farmers on whose land the cheetah lives. CCF has grown over the past 26 years from its inception in 1990 into a world-class research, education and conservation institution that now serves as a model for other carnivore conservation programmes world-wide. CCF has made significant impact on the cheetah conservation crisis. 

Up to date, CCF has successfully  mitigated the conflict between farmers and cheetahs by introducing innovative, non-lethal predator control strategies, which include the introduction of the livestock guarding dog concept and the advancement of communal and commercial conservancies; 

CCF has also stabilised the wild cheetah population in Namibia, and helping it grow from approximately 2,500 in 1990 to more than 3,500 today.

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The centre has also been training more than 300 African biologists representing Namibia, South Sudan, Mozambique, Zambia, Algeria, Niger, Benin, Tanzania and Ethiopia in efforts to make species conservation efforts on the continent sustainable over the long term.