There is a staff person that deserves all of our credit and gratitude, because without him, our Livestock Guarding Dogs would certainly not have been as successful. Most people know very little about him, but he has been with Cheetah Conservation Fund a very long time. He was a farm worker who lived and worked on Boskop, a farm adjacent to our Centre located about 8 km away. When CCF acquired Boskop in 2001, he agreed to stay on and take care of our small stock and LGD as our herder, and it is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Armas Shaanika is CCF’s chief goat herder, and he is the best herder in the world! And he knows our dogs inside and out. Think of him as the ‘Livestock Guarding Dog Whisperer.’ He and I recognized each other as ‘animal people’ and immediately bonded when we placed one of our first dogs with him back in 1996. Although he only speaks Oshiwambo, and I do not, we have developed a very close friendship because we’re conversant in the language of Dogs and Goats. When I discovered he had his own flock of sheep on Boskop, I gave him a CCF Livestock Guarding Dog puppy, and that was almost 20 years ago.
In the years’ since, Armas has raised almost all our CCF puppies. He trains them before homing, and he works with adult dogs that need to be rehomed, either setting them right or keeping them at Boskop for more training with his own goats and sheep. Armas’ current dog is an Anatolian shepherd named Silver (like our anniversary!), one he favors because she is energetic, alert and listens to his commands.
CCF’s herd is made up of Boer goats, Damara sheep and Saanen dairy goats that total just over 300 animals. Those animals are housed together with our Livestock Guarding Dogs overnight. As part of their training, Armas takes turns bringing the dogs out to the bush with our smallstock herd during the day. He evaluates our young dogs on their field work and assesses whether re-homed dogs are ready to go back to work. Armas is a Namibian conservation superstar by accident, an almost-divine intervention whose presence has been a real blessing! Without him, we would not know the true potential of our CCF Livestock Guarding Dogs.
Help us celebrate the Year of the Livestock Guarding Dog by making a contribution in honor of Armas CCF’s Livestock Guarding Dog whisperer.