December 4 is International Cheetah Day
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.
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.”
So in 1990, she founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund. CCF developed non-lethal predator control methods like the Livestock Guarding Dog program, which has placed over 400 Anatolian Shepherd and Kangal dogs with local Namibian farmers, reducing the predation rates on the guarded flocks by over 80 percent. This was the first time the farmers were offered an alternative to shooting cheetahs and now Namibia’s cheetah population is actually increasing!
CCF is an innovative conservation program that has also instituted the Future Farmers of Africa program to teach best practices for integrated livestock and wildlife management. In addition the Bushblok, an award winning fuel log program, has been utilizing the biomass material created by harvesting the thornbush encroaching on valuable habitat lands.
All of these initiatives are in the spirit of social entrepreneurship because more success can be achieved with wildlife conservation efforts when these efforts are proven to be compatible with human livelihoods. Dr. Marker also said ““Conservation is not just about the cheetah, it’s about improving human lives because people decide whether the cheetahs live.”
December 4 was Khayam’s birthday, so in honor of her participation as the cheetah that led Dr. Marker and her team to initiate the programs that will save the cheetah, this date was declared International Cheetah Day!
What can you do to help celebrate International Cheetah Day?
Learn more about the cheetah. We hope you will be inspired and tell a friend, and they will do the same.
Visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s website at cheetah.org to learn more about the cheetah and these innovative programs.
Sign up for the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s newsletter.
Thank you for caring about all cats big and small.