Winter 2014 – Notes from the Field

12.10.2014 | By


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In this Issue: Photo Favorite | Livestock Guarding Dogs | Cheetah Releases | Conferences and Collaborations | Anniversary Upcoming! | International Visitors | Olympic Glory | Mark your Calenders! | Education Programs | Research Highlight | Fall Tour Round-up | A Great Loss

Regularly, our non-releasable cheetahs get exercise—both physical and mental. CCF staff run the cats at our education centre using a mechanical lure system modeled after greyhound racing. Here’s a favorite shot of Khayjay during the cheetah run. This amazing picture was taken by Peter Scheufler, one of our supporters who visited us in Namibia this year.

Our Livestock Guarding Dog program has been officially scaled up! We have increased the number of breeding dogs and, naturally, our puppy numbers have increased dramatically this year! We had a record-breaking year! In the last four months alone, we’ve had 5 litters of puppies born—and are expecting another litter around Christmas Day. (What a great present!)

Our puppies will grow up to be working livestock guardians and placed with farmers around the country—protecting herds from predators. When the puppies are 10 weeks of age, they will leave our goat yard and sent to their new homes with their farmers (who go through training programs with us) and their own herds to bond with. The rural farmers we work with are interested in and are pursuing predator friendly management of their livestock.

Six of the current puppies will be heading to Tanzania. This will be our second group that will be protecting livestock around the Ruaha National Park through our partners of the Ruaha Carnivore Project. Last year, we sent four of which they are doing well.

In Namibia, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of cheetahs caught, trapped and brought to us! Fewer cheetahs in is exactly what we want to see and we’re thrilled to see more and more farmers implement active, integrated livestock, wildlife and predator management techniques.

CCF’s Livestock Guarding Dogs are at the core of our efforts to address human-wildlife conflict, which threatens the cheetah. With these new litters, we’ve now placed close to 600 dogs total! To learn more about our program, visit our website.

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CCF’s cheetah release program has had its ups and downs this year. This year, we have released eight cheetahs and continue to closely monitor three cheetahs.

Jacomina’s adventures continue to be a highlight! She’s living at Erindi, a private wildlife reserve. She and her cubs, now about eight months old, are hunting regularly.

Released cheetahs are tracked via satellite collars with daily downloads coming to our computer each morning. Our tracking team head out into the bush, following the GPS coordinates to find out more about the habitat the cheetahs are hunting in and what prey they have captured.

CCF interns from a variety of universities have been working on data analysis and better understanding of the prey and the activity time of their movement. So far, results are consistent of our understanding of wild cheetah diet and the data reinforces our early work and long term study.


CCF works globally for cheetah conservation—but we also don’t forget our own backyard. Staff recently traveled to the northwest of the country to participate in wildlife management meetings with Conservancies in the Opuwo area.

We’re also increasing our role and support of the Greater Waterberg Landscape—an area near us. For me, it’s always been critical to support the human communities in the cheetah’s ecosystem. After a 2012 survey and need’s assessment, we knew we needed to more aggressively support livestock and wildlife management. So we did! We have been provided and won a grant supported by the European Union and administered by the Civil Society Foundation of Namibia, along with support from several other funders, including the Disney Wildlife Fund and the Busch Gardens Conservation Fund to carry forward monthly training in local communities.

We’ll work over the next year to train communities in rangeland management, bush encroachment and habitat restoration, veterinary care and healthcare for livestock, financial management, naturalist training, habitat restoration, harvest, wildlife integration and we’ll continue with existing environmental education programs.

By helping build capacity within the communities we couldn’t be more excited about how our community will grow because of it. And how our land and wildlife will benefit because of it, too.

I also recently accepted the position as the Chairperson of the Large Carnivore Management Association of Namibia (LCMAN). CCF has been a founding member of and active partner with LCMAN—a forum of stakeholders that promotes and supports the conservation of healthy populations of free-ranging large carnivores. Given that over 80 percent of Namibia is farmland, a major focus of the LCMAN is to provide farmers with practical advice to assist in reducing livestock predation by these species, and thereby to promote their co-existence.

Looking further afield, Dr. Bruce Brewer, CCF Manager, and I traveled to Cornell University for my week as an A.D. White Professor on the Ithaca campus giving lectures and meetings on the future of the cheetah and how CCF and Cornell can work closely together in supporting our cheetah programs in research, biomass and education. I gave multiple lectures during the week to variety of departments from veterinarians to ecologists and business students as well as a public talk to the students and our cheetah friends in the upper New York State area called, “A Future for Cheetahs: How Biofuels and Goat Cheese can Save Wildlife and Lead to Sustainable Development in Namibia.”

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In 2015, CCF turns 25 years old!

We’re excited to be launching our 25th year in conservation next year and invite you to join us in festivities. Stay tuned! We’ll be asking all of our friends and supporters to reminisce on what 25 years of conservation has meant and how you can continue to help plan the cheetah’s future. And, of course, host a celebration, too!


We have had some interesting visitors to CCF in Namibia. Recently the Finnish Ambassador to Namibia and her team visited us to learn more about our work in conservation as well as around our Bushblok and biomass harvesting program. The Finnish Embassy has supported a grant to CCF for habitat restoration and working with the local Greater Waterberg Landscape in training programs.

The helmet comes to CCF!

We were thrilled to receive Anna Fenninger’s helmet in September this year. It embodies her Olympic triumph in speed and grace, which was witnessed by millions all over the world, She donated her famous cheetah print helmet together with a cash gift to help us rebuild the Visitor Centre, which was destroyed last year by fire. Fenninger wore this custom-made race helmet during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where she won a gold medal in the super-G and a silver medal in the giant slalom. Now it will be on display in our new Visitor Centre, for all to see.

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December 4th is International Cheetah Day!

We encourage our cheetah community to take time to celebrate the species that inspires and unites us—the cheetah. Every year, this day reminds me of my first trip to Namibia, in 1977.

December 4th is the birthday of Khayam, a cheetah I raised for 10 years of her life from a cub at Wildlife Safari, in Oregon. Khayam was the cheetah I brought on my initial trip to Namibia where I trained to be the first of its kind research project in rewilding.

Soon, CCF was born and we began to champion the cheetah and it’s ecosystem. In honor of Khayam, we promote cheetah conservation in her honor and her memory. Celebrate with us!

Here are 10 things you can do to help us celebrate International Cheetah Day on December 4th:

  1. Be a wildlife ambassador. Tell your friends and family about the cheetah.
  2. Show solidarity through fashion. Wear cheetah print (a single accessory or head to toe!).
  3. Swap your online profile photo for a cheetah. Choose one here.
  4. Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag, #savethecheetah.
  5. Download our Cheetah Activity Packet designed for elementary school students. There is a Certificate of Cheetah Achievement included!
  6. Watch and share this special International Cheetah Day video message from Jeff Corwin.
  7. Just for kids (or maybe not): download our template to make your own way-cool cheetah mask. It’s fun to impersonate a cheetah! (Mask also included in the Cheetah Activity Packet)
  8. Wear said way-cool cheetah mask to our all-day Virtual Cheetah Party on Facebook. Post photos so everyone can see your best cheetah face. You can also email us a photo of your finished mask and we will include it in our online gallery.
  9. Get some stylish cheetah gear from the CCF Store, at Cafe’ Press, so you can spark conversation about the cheetah all year ‘round.
  10. Make a donation to support cheetah conservation in the wild. Click to Donate to CCF! OR
    Sponsor/adopt a resident cheetah from CCF’s sanctuary. Click to Sponsor a Cheetah!

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Some of CCF’s education staff just returned from attending and presenting at the 32nd Annual Environmental Educator’s Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) conference in Windhoek.

Namibia was very proud to host environmental educators from all over southern Africa to share stories, ideas, and research. The Ministry of Education sponsored and paid for five formal education teachers from each region of Namibia to attend the conference. With this sponsorship in mind CCF was thrilled to nominate our good friend, Ms. Lizette Masule from Okakarara Secondary School to attend the conference with our staff. Ms. Masule attended our Naturalist Training Camp with 10 of her students earlier this year and runs the Okakarara Secondary School Environmental Club within the Greater Waterberg Landscape. At the conference CCF’s Stephanie Bradley and Ignatius Davids presented a paper on CCF’s new Naturalist Training Camp and our involvement with the Okakarara-Waterberg Tourism Project. CCF also had an exhibition booth full of information for educators about bringing their students to our Centre, gave out our predator education curriculum guides, as well as offered educators opportunities for professional development.

The conference was a huge success and we look forward to making connections with other conservation institutions as well as further increasing conservation education in the formal school curriculums all across Africa.

In addition, CCF had booths at the Okakarara, Otjiwarongo, Grootfontain, Gobabis, and Windhoek agriculture shows(like county fairs) in September and October talking about livestock and wildlife management and reduction of human-wildlife conflict and how schools can visit CCF’s Education and Research Centre.

CCF has also presented at several conferences and lectured nationally and internationally including the Association of Zoos and Aquaruims, American Zoo Medical Association, the South African Veterinary Association, the Namibian Veterinary Association, the European Parliament, University of Namibia, Namibia’s Polytechnic, Stanford and Cornell Universities in the US.

Local education outreach:

October and November has been a busy month for school group visits at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) Namibian centre. CCF educators have hosted 426 students ranging from kindergarten learners to university students in the last two months. All learners participated in a guided tour of our centre and cheetah museum, as well as, viewed our daily cheetah feeding. Learners were also able to participate in additional educational games, activities, or crafts during their visits.

It has been a pleasure to host all of these learners in their last few months of the school year. Many of the learners were rewarded for their academic achievements for the year, as well as, some schools making sure at-risk youth was given opportunities for expanded one-on-one educational experiences. It is CCF’s goal to reach and educate as much of the Namibian youth as possible to encourage them to investigate and care for the natural world and all that call it home. CCF educators are encouraged by this large school turn out so late in the year and plan to visit and host countless schools over the course of next year, for a bigger and better educational 2015.

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Ezequiel Fabiano, PhD, is CCF’s quantitative ecologist. In addition to conducting data analysis and assisting with ecological research projects, we’ve added a new opportunity. Fabiano is taking the lead in a new carnivore survey in Angola.

Originally from Angola, Fabiano and CCF will be working with the Angola government and partnering with Panthera to census several of the parks to learn more about the presence of carnivores. The first will be in Iona National Park in southwest Angola, where we discovered cheetahs a few years ago. Congrats Fabiano on this exciting opportunity!

Fabiano recently presented the results of a 10-year study on the use of remote camera traps to understand the population dynamics of cheetahs and other large carnivores at a well-attended public talk hosted by the Namibian Scientific Society in November.

A second camera trap survey was conducted on a farm south of CCF and the Waterberg as a part of Chavoux Luyt’s PhD. Matti Nghikembua, senior ecologist and education officer for CCF, is planning a new camera trap survey to start in 2015 north east of CCF at a the neighbouring B2 gold mine farm reserve.

CCF is currently working on GIS mapping of their cheetah home range data and classifying habitat types.

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My CCF North American Fall Tour 2014 was most exciting with the continuation of presenting my book, A Future for Cheetahs, featuring photos by Suzi Eszterhas.

This fall, I attended lectures, book signings and events in 23 cities and 7 states including Vancouver, Canada.

My tour lasted six weeks, starting in Orlando, FL at the Association of Zoos & Aquarium (AZA) annual conference meeting many friends and colleagues from around the country. The Dallas Zoo and CLRDesign hosted a cheetah gathering for CCF. I then met up with Namibia’s Honorary consul, Stephen Snively, a Florida lawyer at the law offices of Holland & Knight who hosted a cocktail party introducing the mission of CCF to their associates and friends.

This fall CCF had cheetah ambassador events in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, and Saratoga, California as well as at our Galas in Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC. All of these incredible events were possible through the dedication and support of our CCF Trustees and local CCF Chapters and volunteers and the various facilities which supported CCF through their cheetah ambassador.

In Northern California, I gave numerous lectures at various zoos starting off at the Oakland Zoo, San Francisco Zoo and then the Sacramento Zoo with book signings in Corde Madera at Book Passage and at the Pegasus Bookstore in Berkeley. I also gave a lecture at Stanford University with Catie Mong, a former CCF Namibian summer intern and Stanford student, as well as at Pacific Grove Museum. The Mountain Winery was a unique location and fundraising event with ambassador cheetah Themba (from the Wild Cat Conservation and Education Fund) and again, Safari West in Santa Rosa hosted our annual dinner event – Speed & Elegance, Saving the Wild Cheetah, with CCF Trustees and hosts Nancy & Peter Lang.

San Diego Zoo’s ambassador cheetah wowed everyone at a lovely event at the home of Roy & Robin Toft in Ramona with many new and old cheetah friends before giving a book signing in La Jolla at Africa & Beyond bookstore, as well as a conservation talk with Julie Scardina at the Hubbs- SeaWorld Research Institute.

It was a pleasure traveling to the Los Angeles area to give a lecture to a standing room only crowd at the G2 Gallery in Venice as well as meeting up with CCF Board members Sara Nichols and Margery Nicolson at a cheetah ambassador luncheon in Pacific Palisades at the private home of Barbara Bosson.

From California, I made a very quick stopover in Tucson, Arizona to meet up with CCF Trustee John Carver of CheetahKids and his family who kindly hosted me at a lecture fundraiser at the Reid Park Zoo. It had been a couple years since I had visited my cheetah friends at the Reid Park Zoo so it was definitely a great evening and reunion with everyone again.

From Arizona, I flew straight to Vancouver, BC with CCF Trustee Carolyn Farquhar and Evlyn Anderson and the CCFCanadian Board members who hosted my travels and events this fall with special biomass business meetings and a fundraiser supported by CCF stakeholder Jo-Anne Reynolds at the lovely Shaughnessy Golf Club. It was great to be back in Canada again.

My Portland visit was eventful with the support of CCF Trustee Janet Waggoner and the Oregon Chapter hosting the 14th annual Big Cat. Big Party which again was a great success this year at the Oregon Zoo! I want to thank everyone who helped to fund this exciting benefit from the live auction donations to our special dinner committee hosts as well as the ambassador cheetah from Wildlife Safari.

In the Washington, D.C. area we hosted CCF’s Annual Board Meeting at the Cosmos Club with many board members attending from around the USA, Canada and the UK. A CCF board welcoming party was held at the lovely home of CCF Trustee Gary & Judy Kopff. CCF Trustee Suzi Rapp from the Columbus Zoo had cheetah ambassador BiBi and her canine companion Coby at the DC Gala. It was a distinct pleasure to see everyone supporting CCF’s DC Gala held at the lovely offices of Foley & Lardner in historic Georgetown. as well as joining us all. CCF Ambassador, Sally Davidson of Clyde’s Restaurants hosted the CCF board members and staff at her new restaurant – The Hamilton in the Loft! I am pleased to say it was a very successful board meeting and DC Gala with everyone’s focus and efforts on saving the cheetah in the wild.

My last CCF event was held in New York State at the Millbrook School and Trevor Zoo for the KeepSafe project. This was my second fundraising event and lecture for the KeepSafe project hosted by artist and CCF Trustee Paola Bari. My last week was spent lecturing in Ithaca, NY at Cornell University for the A.D. White Professorship.

It is with great sorrow that I close this letter with the news that my mentor and friend Dr. Ian Player has passed away at the age of 87.

He was considered the Grandfather of Conservation in South Africa; a pioneer and visionary who has profoundly influenced conservation and changed the lives of countless people. He was responsible for saving the white rhino from extinction through Operation Rhino which relocated a number of white rhino from Imfolozi Game Reserve to establish safe breeding populations in other regions of South Africa.

Dr. Player also founded the Wilderness Leadership School, the first organization inAfrica dedicated to providing a pure wilderness experience for people of all backgrounds, races and nationalities. Started in South Africa during apartheid, this multi-racial educational programme helped build a network of conservationists committed to saving wilderness and wildlife.
He will be dearly missed.

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