Human-Wildlife Conflict Management
One of the greatest threats to the cheetah in the wild is human-wildlife conflict. Over 90 percent of cheetahs live outside protected management areas, meaning that they live alongside human communities. Most of these are commercial and communal farming communities raising cows, sheep, and goats.
To the communal farmers, many of whom are poor, the loss of even a single animal can be devastating. Cheetahs and other predators are looked upon by farmers not as a valuable component of a thriving ecosystem, but as a threat to their livelihoods. During the 1980’s, livestock and game farmers halved the Namibian cheetah population, indiscriminately removing nearly 10,000 cheetahs. It was in 1990 that CCF developed its Human Wildlife mitigation programs, called Future Farmers of Africa.
To prevent further cheetah population decline, CCF works with farmers to investigate, develop and implement predator-friendly livestock and wildlife management techniques that are also exhibited at CCF’s model farm. CCF promotes these livestock management solutions in farmer publications and media, and at agricultural shows, meetings, and colleges and universities and also through farmer training courses. CCF is encouraged that there is now far greater awareness of the cheetah’s role in the ecosystem, and an increasing number of farmers adopt predator-friendly livestock management practices and fewer cheetahs are being killed.
Livestock Guarding Dog Program
CCF’s renowned Livestock Guarding Dog Program has been highly effective at reducing predation rates and thereby reducing the inclination by farmers to trap or shoot cheetahs. CCF breeds Anatolian shepherd and Kangal dogs, breeds that for millennia have guarded small livestock against wolves and bears in Turkey. The dogs are placed with Namibian farmers as puppies. They bond with the herd and use their imposing presence and loud bark to scare away potential predators.
CCF has been placing dogs since 1994 and our research shows the dogs are highly effective, reducing livestock loss from all predators by over 80 and up to 100 percent. Farmers adopt CCF dogs and participate in education on how to train the dog. 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. CCF research shows that the people’s attitudes towards predators are changing as a result of this and other CCF programs.
CCF has been a participant in Namibia’s innovative Conservancy movement since its inception. Conservancies are a wildlife management structure that allows the local populace within a land management area to manage and reap the economic benefit of the wildlife treasures located there. Because people in the conservancies “own” the wildlife, they are far more interested in protecting it, and areas governed by conservancies tend to be far more resistant to outside influence from poachers. CCF has been working with the local communal farmers and populations that surround the Waterberg plateau, creating a conservancy and economic development area known as the Greater Waterberg Landscape.
Habitat Restoration with Bushblok
In 2001, the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated to find a habitat improvement program that would be ecologically and economically viable. CCF identified a business opportunity: processing encroaching bush into high-heat, low-emission, compacted logs for use as a cooking fuel or for home heating. CCF Bush (PTY) Ltd. was established to manufacture the Bushblok product.
CCF has long been a proponent of promoting environmentally sound farming practices by giving producers who follow such practices the opportunity to certify as being “predator-friendly” and consequently charge a premium for their products. CCF has been involved with this movement since 2000, when we first conceptualized the notion of “Cheetah Country Beef” as a label for cattle farmers using predator-friendly farming techniques. CCF’s Dancing Goat Creamery products, and its Bushblok product, are Certified Wildlife Friendly® by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network. CCF continues to look for opportunities to promote predator-friendly farming practices through eco-labeling.
Dancing Goat Creamery/Livelihood Development
CCF operates from the principle that the key to securing a future for the cheetah is to secure the livelihoods of the human communities that live alongside the cheetah. Consequently, CCF is engaging in efforts to promote increased prosperity for the humans living in cheetah country through livelihood development. The Dancing Goat Creamery produces and sells dairy products made from CCF’s goat milk, thereby demonstrating to small livestock farmers a viable source of supplemental income that can make their farms more prosperous. CCF is also undertaking efforts to produce honey via an apiary, and experimenting in grape growing for winemaking, as other efforts at developing supplementary income streams for communal farmers.
Illegal Cheetah Trade
Illegal wildlife trade involving live animals and plants or parts and products derived from them is estimated to be a multibillion-dollar business, following the drugs and arms trade, but with a lower risk of detection. In some parts of the world, cheetahs are considered a prestigious possession, and are available for sale through street markets and the internet. However, cheetahs don’t breed well in captivity and it is highly unlikely that legal breeding facilities are able to meet the demand. CCF estimates that only about one in six cubs removed from the wild survive the process of being transported to a buyer due to malnutrition or inadequate treatment. The proliferation of wild cheetah taken for the illegal pet trade has the potential to decimate wild populations in areas where they are already small and isolated.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has been an active participant in the fight against illegal wildlife trade since 2005, when it arranged for the confiscation of two extremely unhealthy cheetah cubs tied up with ropes outside a small restaurant in the Somali region of Ethiopia. In 2007, CCF became a founding member of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), a voluntary public-private coalition started by the Bureau of Oceans and International Scientific and Environmental Affairs of the US Department of State. In 2013, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) tabled the issue of cheetah trafficking at its 13th Conference of the Parties (CoP13) held in Bangkok. Since then, CCF has been working with CITES, as well as relevant governments and non-government organizations (NGO), to address issues such as enforcement and collaboration, demand reduction, procedures for the placement of confiscated cheetahs, and cyber-crime.
Download posters developed by the US Regional Environmental Office (REO) for East Africa to support the fight against illegal cheetah trafficking.