Cheetah Conservation Fund celebrates Wildlife Day

The Cheetah Conservation Fund which is the mother organisation that takes care of the world’s largest cheetah population in Namibia has joined the United Nations in celebrating the 6th Annual Wildlife Day over the weekend.

The day is dedicated to wildlife and intended to bring attention to the plight of wild animals on the planet, and this year’s theme is “Big cats: predators under threat”.

“Cheetahs, just like lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars, are facing multiple threats to survival. But cheetahs are the most endangered of all big cat species in Africa, and they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Over the last century, we’ve lost more than 90-percent of the world’s wild cheetah. If we don’t do something now, cheetahs could become extinct during our lifetimes,” said Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of CCF.

In Namibia and in many other parts of Africa, cheetahs are threatened by conflict, habitat loss, loss of prey, poaching and the illegal trade. Most of the problems are caused by human activities.

To counter, CCF has developed a holistic approach to conservation, considering the needs of people, livestock and wildlife sharing the landscape.

In Namibia, CCF’s programmes help people and wildlife co-exist.

According to Dr. Marjer, the CCF deploys a range of programmes to successfully conserve cheetah, utilising tactics rooted in science and data supplied by its own research teams.

CCF’s “Future Farmers of Africa” trains Namibian men and women in integrated livestock-wildlife rangeland management.

The course develops rural livelihoods by training farmers in how to best manage their rangeland, livestock and wildlife to reduce conflict with predators.

CCF instructors explain how to increase profits by providing livestock with basic veterinary care and how to protect cattle during calving seasons.

To reduce conflict, CCF places CCF Livestock Guarding Dogs with farmers to serve as non-lethal predator control tools. Farmers with CCF dogs are less likely to have conflict with cheetahs, and they report a decrease in predation losses ranging over 80 percent.

Each year, thousands of young learners are impacted by CCF’s Future Conservationists of Africa presentations offered in schools and onsite at its Field Research and Education Centre near Otjiwarongo. By teaching students about wild species from a young age, they are more likely to grow up and become conservationists and stewards of wildlife.

CCF also builds capacity in rural communities, training residents to become eco-tourism guides and artisans that produce hand-crafted jewelry and art to sell to tourists.

By educating people and proving economic value in having wild cheetahs as part of the landscape, CCF has helped reduce the decline of cheetahs in Namibia to human wildlife conflict.

However, the cheetah population is still on the decline due to a variety of factors including habitat loss and fragmentation and conflict with larger predators in the landscape.

“World Wildlife Day 2018 provides an opportunity to raise awareness for the plight of the cheetah and rally people’s support for this iconic big cat. I invite everyone to visit CCF to learn more about the cheetah and the programmes we’ve developed to help save them. We hope you will join us in the fight to save the cheetah, so we all can enjoy this majestic creature for generations to come”, said Dr. Marker.

Cheetahs are the most endangered big cat in Africa. Over the past century their numbers have dropped by more than 90-percent.

The most recent study estimates the remaining wild population of adult and adolescent cheetahs to be just 7,100.

The cheetah is built for speed.

With a light-boned frame, long legs and a tail that serves as a rudder, cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 110 km per hour. Cheetahs can accelerate and change direction faster than any other land animal.

Cheetahs are carnivores and prefer to hunt smaller antelope, like springbok, steenbok, and duiker and the young of larger antelope, like kudu and Oryx. Cheetahs are considered the best hunters on the savanna.

Ninety-percent of Namibian cheetahs live on farmlands and hunt by day, which makes them vulnerable to conflict with farmers. Cheetahs live in low density over large home ranges covering areas on average of 1,500 km2.

In addition to human wildlife conflict, cheetahs are threatened by habitat loss and loss of prey throughout Africa. These problems are exacerbated by climate change.

Cheetahs are also threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. Each year, an estimated 300 cubs are poached in the Horn of Africa to be sold as pets on the black market (primarily in the Gulf States). Sadly, five out of six poached cubs die in the hands of smugglers.

Namibia has the greatest density of cheetahs of any nation on Earth, which is why Otjiwarongo, the town where CCF is based, is known as “The Cheetah Capital of the World”.

CCF is a world-renown cheetah research, education and conservation centre open to the public 364 days a year. For a nominal admission fee, visitors can tour the facilities, participate in educational activities like a Cheetah Feeding or Cheetah Run, and see wild cheetahs in their natural habitat.

Overnight accommodations are available for visitors who seek an immersive experience.