Make a Positive Impact Toward Species Conservation

  • by Jess Sorrentino March 8, 2024
Make a Positive Impact Toward Species Conservation

My name is Jess Sorrentino, and I currently serve as a Development Associate for the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in the United States. Like many kids, I was fascinated by cheetahs and always thought that I would like to work with them. During my undergraduate degree, I completed a newly formed cheetah internship program at the Smithsonian National Zoo. In 2009, my journey with CCF began with a five-week field-based internship in Namibia. Seeing CCF’s work first-hand cemented my desire to help save the cheetah from extinction.

After my time at CCF, I worked with wildlife in a few different countries: Qatar, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In the UAE, I spent five years as the curator for an underdeveloped zoo. I helped to care for many carnivores, several of them were cheetahs confiscated from the illegal wildlife/pet trade. After a few years and a few more institutions, I was contacted by CCF’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Laurie Marker, and asked to assist in caring for confiscated cheetah cubs in Somaliland. CCF’s presence in Somaliland was beginning to expand with the building of the first of three Cheetah Safe Houses.

My work caring for cheetahs both at zoos and at CCF was a very impactful experience for me. It helped me to understand the importance of conservation efforts spearheaded by dedicated individuals like Dr. Marker.

If not for her dedication and the tireless work of CCF’s staff, I firmly believe that the cheetah would already be extinct in the wild.

Sadly, despite CCF’s 30+ years of frontline research, education and conservation work, the species is still in decline across most of its range. Though CCF and its dedicated partners maintain a population stronghold of cheetahs in Southern and East Africa, it’s not enough; thankfully, there are many people interested in helping us, we just needed to bring them together.

Through my work at CCF and in zoos, I’ve seen firsthand how collaboration across a broad spectrum of stakeholders—from NGOs to businesses, government, and community leaders—can make a significant positive impact toward species conservation.

For the past year, I was honored to be involved in planning and hosting the first Global Cheetah Summit. The summit convened in Ethiopia at the end of January, and was a monumental step forward in uniting conservationists, scientists, and stakeholders from around the globe to address the urgent challenges facing cheetahs. On the fourth and final day of the summit, participants drafted and ratified the Addis Ababa Declaration for Cheetah Conservation, a unified and range wide plan of action for cheetah conservation.

With fewer than 7,500 mature individuals left in the wild, the initiatives outlined in the Addis Ababa Declaration for Cheetah Conservation are necessary for the survival of the species. Your support can help us make the plan happen.

CCF’s efforts in Namibia and Somaliland are vital, not only for the rehabilitation and care of rescued cheetahs, but also for engaging communities in conservation efforts and conducting essential research.

After the Global Cheetah Summit concluded, I was able to visit Somaliland again. Things have changed significantly from when I was working there in 2018. CCF expanded over the past few years with the building of the Cheetah Rescue and Conservation Centre (CRCC) in Geed-Deeble, the first national park in Somaliland. Last year we closed and recycled the Cheetah Safe Houses moving all 97 cheetahs, one leopard and one caracal to new, expansive enclosures.

With your support, we can continue our existing programs while venturing into new projects aimed at reversing the decline of cheetah populations in critical regions.

We are dedicated to the survival of the species, and we are thankful that you are too.

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