There’s no better way to spend World Wildlife Day than at an intimate gathering at Studio Connect, Etobicoke, to learn about one of the most charismatic big cats in the world – the cheetah. The world celebrates World Wildlife Day on March 3rd and this year the theme was “Big Cats”. Cheetah are one of the most endangered of the big cats. There is real urgency to having these amazing animals from extinction, but there’s still time to make a difference.
Stepping into the art studio, I was immediately greeted with a warm welcome from artist and owner, Soudabeh Majidi. Lovely curated paintings of the cheetah were displayed throughout the space along with other beautiful paintings of wildlife. Guests helped themselves to delicious treats and beverages while they mingled with friends and new faces, awaiting the presentation about the plight of the cheetah and how we, as Canadians, can help save the cheetah.
Maurice Benatar, Board Member of Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) Canada spoke of the threats cheetahs face including illegal wildlife trafficking and retaliatory killing and discussed various programs Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has implemented as solutions.
Illegal wildlife trafficking: The poaching of cheetah cubs decimates populations of cheetah in the wild. Once taken from the wild, only 1 in 6 cubs survive the journey of capture and smuggling to countries where people purchase them to be household pets.
Retaliatory killing: As nearly 90% of cheetahs live in open areas and private farmlands, they are often killed by local people in retaliation for livestock predation and for their perceived threat to human livelihoods. However, research estimates cheetahs are responsible for as little as 3% of predation, but are often blamed by farmers due to their daytime visibility.
With the help of Canadian supporters and their generous donations, Cheetah Conservation Fund Canada is able to support programs implemented by their CCF Namibia partner. Programs including Future Farmers of Africa and the Livestock Guarding Dogs help to enhance the livelihoods of farmers and provide them with non-lethal measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict. CCF’s considerable Cheetah Care efforts include providing a sanctuary for orphaned cheetahs and extensive scientific research on this species. CCF works hard to rewild cheetahs, if possible, with the aim of building healthy populations.
CCF has a world–class student internship program attracting students from around the world, including countries across the African continent. Jaden Dales, now a third-year veterinary student at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, spoke about her own experience at CCF Namibia. In the summer of 2017, along with several of her classmates, provided her the opportunity to realize her passion to help animals because “every aspect of CCF’s programs go together for the greater good”.
At the close of the event, I caught up with one of the lucky winners of the event raffle, Evan Murrell, a young Cheetah Champion and new owner of Soudabeh Majidi’s beautiful cheetah painting. I learned that Evan’s love of cheetahs and their speed was what placed him 1st in the 200 meter run at the 2017 City Track & Field Championship, as he “sprinted like a cheetah!” Just as incredible was his decision to honour the
cheetah at his recent birthday party. Evan chose Cheetah Conservation Fund Canada so that he and his friends could give directly to the cause of saving the cheetah.
Young cheetah advocates and champions like Jaden and Evan remind us that cheetahs are worth our efforts to save them from extinction. If we can do this and spread the word about the importance of saving these endangered big cats, then future generations will be able to learn about and experience these magnificent animals.