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Bushblok Restores Habitat and Saves Cheetahs

Burning Bushes to Restore Habitat Land and Save Cheetahs.

Gracey and a Bushblok log

Bushblok Saves Cheetahs

Most of us know our big cat cousins are struggling to survive in in the wild. You might even know that loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflict, loss of prey and poaching are among the biggest reasons the big cats are fighting for their lives. But did you know the loss of habitat is not just due to the increasing  human population but due to another invasive species, the thorn-bush.

The acacia thorn bush overgrowth has claimed thousands of acres of savannah in Namibia where the largest number of wild cheetahs still live.  Overgrazing, drought, extirpation of elephants are a few of the reasons for the bush encroachment.  As the bush thickens and the sharp thorns of the acacia entwine to form a barrier, not only is the cheetah at risk but so are the prey species that thrive on the savannah.

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International Cheetah Day

December 4 is  International Cheetah Day

Cheetah in front of waterberg plateau

Cheetah in front of the Waterberg Plateau in Namibia

Khayam was the inspiration for today.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has declared December 4 to be International Cheetah Day.  The cheetah is not just the fastest, but the oldest of the big cats having survived over 3 million years of glaciations and warming cycles, and even its own genetic bottleneck. But with habitat destruction and conflict with humans, the cheetah could become extinct in less than 20 years.

In 1977, Dr. Laurie Marker  traveled to Namibia with a female cheetah named Khayam. Dr. Marker wanted to see if it was possible for a cheetah that had lived their entire life in captivity to be released into the wild. But when Dr. Marker and Khayam arrived in Namibia, she learned  the cheetahs needs were quite different from what the wildlife community had assumed.

Cheetahs were considered vermin, pests that should be shot on sight.  The Namibian farmers worried about their small livestock herds, thought of the cheetah as a threat to their own livelihood. Dr. Marker  soon realized that if the cheetah was to survive in Namibia, a solution must be found to enable the farmers and the cheetah to live side-by-side, allowing both to thrive. Shortly after the assessment of the cheetahs’ needs, Dr. Marker also realized there was no group working to find a solution to help the farmers that would in turn save the cheetah.

Gracey in front of CCF Sign

At the entrance of CCF in Namibia.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund

This past summer we had the honor of being able to speak with Dr. Marker as part of our course work in Namibia. When we were sitting in a meeting room at CCF,  talking with Dr. Marker she explained that she realized “There is no “they” and if you want something done you have to do it yourself.”

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