Human Wildlife Conflict
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.
Human-Wildlife Conflict Management Programs:
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.
Future Farmers of Africa
CCF operates a Model Farm that raises sheep, cattle, and goats and uses this farm as a tool to research and deploy predator-friendly farming methods, including herd management and veld management, proper animal husbandry, the use of swing gates, and other techniques. The Model Farm has become an education and training tool for farmers all over Namibia and through the cheetahs range, allowing CCF to lead by example. Through training courses, education materials, trade show appearances, and other opportunities, CCF has reached thousands of farmers since its inception.
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.
The Greater Waterberg Landscape
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.
Illegal Pet Trade
Illegal wildlife trade involving live animals and plants or parts and products derived from them is estimated to be a multibillion-dollar business, second only to the drugs and arms trade. 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 legal breeding facilities are unable to meet the demand. CCF estimates that only about one in six smuggled cubs survive the process of being transported to a buyer due to malnutrition or inadequate treatment. Very often, mother cheetahs are killed to obtain cubs for the illegal pet trade. The proliferation of wild cheetah taken for the illegal pet trade is decimating wild populations.
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.