Cheetah Conservation Fund

To be the internationally recognized centre of excellence in the conservation of cheetahs and their ecosystems. CCF will work with all stakeholders to develop best practices in research, education, and land use to benefit all species, including people. CCF works to: create and manage long-term conservation strategies for the cheetah; develop and implement livestock management practices that eliminate the need for ranchers to kill cheetah; conduct education programs for locals; continue research in genetics, biology, species survival
Oct 1, 2013

PHD Research - Study on Captive Cheetahs

Marking Food
Marking Food

For me, coming to CCF was not only about fulfilling a long time dream of working with cheetahs but about conducting research as well. I am a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland College Park (USA) and I work with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to investigate how stress is related to disease in captive cheetah populations. AA amyloidosis is a disease that is highly prevalent among the captive cheetah population in North America, but appears to be virtually nonexistent in wild cheetahs and I believe that this is due to the stress that being held in captivity imposes; this is the focus of my dissertation research. CCF and the Smithsonian have had a long and strong history of collaboration, so I took this opportunity to compare the captive cheetahs in the US to captive and wild cheetahs in Namibia. In order to measure stress in a cheetah, the hormone cortisol is commonly used. Hormones can most easily be measured in the blood, but collecting blood samples from a cheetah is both invasive and stressful, so instead, I use fecal samples. The amount of cortisol in feces varies from day-to-day, so I collect many samples over a long period of time to calculate an average, or baseline, for each individual. Once we have this information we can begin to investigate if stress may be directly related to AA amyloidosis.

A large amount of my time at CCF has been working directly with the husbandry team to prepare meat, feed cheetahs, and collect fecal samples daily for my study. Cheetahs at CCF are housed in groups, which makes the process a bit more complicated, because when we find a fecal sample in an enclosure we do not know which cheetah it belongs to. So what is the solution? I add different non-digestible markers, such as uncooked lentils, corn, or rice to each individual’s food. These markers will pass through the cheetah’s digestive tract and into their feces. This way, when I collect a fecal sample, I can look to see which marker is inside and instantly know which cheetah the fecal sample came from. Using this method, I have been able to collect samples from 34 of the resident cheetahs at CCF whom will be included in my study.

In addition to this work, I have also spent a lot of time working in the Genetic Conservation Laboratory here at CCF because I am also interested to know if there are genetic differences between cheetahs that predispose them to getting AA amyloidosis, particularly when stressed.
I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to spend the last two months here at CCF and feel incredibly sad that my time here has just about come to an end. I’ve been so fortunate to get to know most of CCF’s resident cheetahs and CCF’s staff has been fantastic, unwavering in their efforts to help me with my research exceeding my original expectations. I look forward to the day I will return to CCF again, because it is not a question of if, it is a question of when.
Livingston
Livingston
Lab Work
Lab Work

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Oct 1, 2013

CCF visits the Klein Karas Community

Entrance
Entrance
Back in June, a group from the Klein Karas Community in southern Namibia spent three days with us here at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) to learn about integrated livestock management and alternative livelihoods. The Klein Karas Community is located in the Greater Fish River Canyon Landscape and is the only rural community in this area. Whilst at CCF, the group learned how to identify predators, how to manage their livestock to reduce conflict, and also about our organic garden and goat milk production.
Their visit was funded by The Namibia Protected Landscape Conservation Areas Initiative (NAM-PLACE), which is a five year project established by The Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), with co-financing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the Implementing Agency.

The week following their training visit my colleagues, Tyapa and Chavoux, made the long drive south to deliver a livestock guarding dog puppy and two milk goat bucks to further benefit their project. And now it was time for the follow up visit to check everything was going well and the animals were fit and healthy.
At 5am Tyapa and I pulled out of the gates of CCF to start our journey. It’s close to 1000km each way so this early start was indeed necessary. I have to say the stop for coffee in Otjiwarongo was very welcome indeed. By taking it in turns to drive we covered the distance quite easily but we did arrive after dark. A hot shower, some food and a good night’s sleep were in order before our visit to the community the next day
We met with Josef Swartbooi who looks after the livestock guarding dog puppy and who is also one of the community leaders. He said they were very happy with the dogs’ progress and felt he was a great addition to the herd. The puppy was clearly very well looked after and had bonded extremely well with the goats he was growing to protect. Everywhere they went, he followed, with his tail in the air and with a jaunty little step. I think he will grow to be a fine guarding dog for the community goat herds.
We also had a chance to catch up with the breeding dairy goat bucks who have definitely grown in the past few weeks. They were happy to come over for a stroke and looked in fine condition. They have not yet been used to breed with the females but this should happen in the next month or so.
Overall, we had a great visit. This whole area is beautiful and so very different to the north of Nambia. I look forward to our next follow up visit in October when we hope to meet with the elders and more members of the community to work out how we can further assist them with their development plans

Klein Karas 2
Klein Karas 2
Guarding Dog
Guarding Dog
Working with the herd
Working with the herd

Links:

Jul 8, 2013

Puppy day for Kiri's Litter

Kiri
Kiri's puppies

Kiri's litter of eight Kangal puppies born on 31.  It's almost time for CCF's puppies to be placed with Namibian farmers to begin their work as Livestock Guarding Dogs. Kiri's litter is getting ready for Puppy Day!  On this day, farmers will receive their new guarding dog.

Farmers who receive a CCF dog must go through training to learn how to utilize the dog effectively with their herd, and we visit the dogs after placement to ensure that they are doing well in their new homes. The dogs and the farmers are usually very successful!

Over 100 Livestock Guarding Dogs currently working with Namibian Farmers. Farmers using a CCF dog see their predation rates go down from all predators by over 80 percent.

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