Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is the longest-running and most successful organization dedicated to saving the wild cheetah from extinction. Founded in 1990 by Dr. Laurie Marker, a leading expert on the cheetah and on human-wildlife conflict mitigation, CCF has taken on the mission of saving this iconic feline. The world’s fastest land mammal, cherished by human societies tracing back to the Sumerians and the Egyptians, has sadly become Africa’s most endangered big cat. Hard to believe, especially since cheetahs are so awe inspiring, and they seem to be everywhere!
The world’s wild cheetahs have long been under threat, with the global population now below 7,500. Part of the problem has been the lack of knowledge about them – not helped by the fact cheetahs are secretive and speedy, making counting, tracking and understanding them very difficult. CCF is dedicated to understanding the mysterious big cats, to filling in gaps of scientific knowledge, including how the species behaves in the wild, its demographics, home range, genetics and its health issues. CCF conducts in situ research, meaning it does its studies in areas where the cheetah naturally live. CCF then uses this research to form the basis for its education and conservation programs, which are designed for young learners, conservation professionals, agriculturalists and pastoralists in cheetah range states throughout Africa.
At its world renown Centre in Otjiwarongo, Namibia, “The Cheetah Capital of the World,” CCF maintains a fully capable veterinary clinic and conservation genetics laboratory. There, teams of researchers study the health and environmental issues that impact cheetah survival. Cheetahs are delicate animals challenged by a lack of genetic diversity, meaning that DNA from unrelated animals will appear to be like identical twins. This means if one cheetah develops a reaction to a new virus or disease caused by a virus, it is likely all exposed cheetahs will have the same result. The conservation genetics lab is making great strides in understanding the species. In 2015, a team of researchers mapped the cheetah genome using DNA supplied by CCF’s most well-known ambassador cat, Chewbaaka.
But disease is not the most imminent threat. Conflict between cheetahs and livestock farmers is what threatens their existence daily. To mitigate, CCF offers education and vocational training for farmers, teaching them about how cheetahs live and how to use non-lethal means to control predation. On CCF’s 67,000-hectare Model Farm and Wildlife Reserve, CCF researches test new tools like e-shepherd collars, special devices worn by livestock that alert farmers to the presence of predators, and CCF Livestock Guarding Dogs (LGDs), which are exceptionally large, loud, and fiercely protective of livestock. CCF LGDs are the single most successful tool available to farmers, credited with sparing the lives of hundreds of cheetah and other carnivores.
Cheetahs helped make the San Diego Zoo the world renown institution it is today. The Zoo and many others are local champions for the species, including Piper and Heath, a Namibian tour company; Andy Blue of the San Diego Humane Society; Jackie Navarro and Wild Wonders; Jordan Couture; and longtime driving force behind CCF’s San Diego chapter, David Dolan. They are excellent conservation partners for CCF. This is a good thing because cheetahs really do need all the help they can get!
To find out more about how you can support CCF’s mission, please visit www.cheetah.org/