Hi everyone! My name is Paige and I manage the Livestock Guarding Dog Programme (LSGD) at The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Otjiwarongo, Namibia. Now, I am sure most people are wondering, “What do dogs have to do with saving cheetahs?” well, let me tell you!
The first thing you must know is that most of Namibia is made up of farmland and as human population grows, climate changes occur, and habitats change. The world not only changes for the people in it, but also for the animals that make up the ecosystems. As resources become more limited for both people and animals, the two species tend to collide in ways that are not favourable; we call this human wildlife conflict (HWC). A huge HWC issue in Namibia is predation on livestock, such as calves, sheep, and goats. Fortunately, CCF came up with an innovative programme in 1994 to help farmers with this issue. CCF uses special breeds of guarding dogs called Anatolian Shepherds and Kangals to protect Namibian farmers’ small stock from predation. Using these dogs allow farmers, livestock and predators to live peacefully on the same land.
When I read about this programme in the Smithsonian Magazine back in 2011 I decided I had to go check it out. I applied for an internship and got accepted on a 3 month program. I was very nervous to go, but decided I needed to push myself to take this great opportunity. I actually went to CCF wanting to become a field researcher on big cats, but after a period of time I realised fieldwork wasn’t for me – I enjoyed working within the LSGD programme more. It took a while to realise this, but when you see everything that goes on behind the scenes at CCF you see there are so many other aspects that go in to saving the cheetah than just physically working with the cheetahs. Working in the LSGD programme allowed me to work with two of my favourite animals, dogs and goats, to save my favourite big cat, the cheetah. After an extension on my internship for another 4 months and 1.5 years back in the U.S., I finally got my chance to go back to Namibia to manage the LSGD programme.
I have been managing the programme for 3 years now, and I get to participate in all aspects of the programme. I breed dogs, raise their puppies, place puppies on suitable farms, update databases and files with information on individual dogs, communicate with farmers on their HWC issues, help conduct workshops on training guarding dogs, and interact with numerous school groups, tourists and special VIP guests. This job ended up being perfect for me as I get to do some office work, but also get to be outside and physically working with the animals. The biggest joy I get from my job is being able to help provide farmers with a technique to mitigate their HWC which, in turn, helps to save the wild cheetah.
So, I end this post with some words of advice; if you aren’t sure what you’re interested in doing career-wise try out lots of things. You never know where you might just happen to fit in! Never give up on following your dreams – it sounds like a cheesy cliche but it really is so true. If I hadn’t follow my dreams, I wouldn’t be where I am today.