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Aug 6, 2019

Cheetahs... Giraffes... How does that make sense?

Animal Adventure Park Presenting Check to CCF
Animal Adventure Park Presenting Check to CCF

The only thing chilly and rainy on Sunday at the Animal Adventure Park (AAP) in New York was the weather. Spirits were bright and shiny when AAP’s Owner, Jordan Patch presented Cheetah Conservation Fund’s Director of Finance and Operations, Beth Fellenstein, with a generous donation of $30,000. Animal Adventure Park opened in 2013, and in the span of seven years it has become known worldwide for its superstar animal ambassador, April the Giraffe. Animal Adventure Park has been able to successfully leverage the online fame of April to collect funds which they use to support giraffe conservation projects. CCF was chosen to receive the gift of funding from the zoo’s “Name The Calf” campaign.

The presentation started with an introduction of CCF’s work to park guests and local media. Jordan rhetorically asked the crowd, “Cheetahs… Giraffes… How does that make sense?”. In a press release about the donation earlier this week Jordan stated “It’s our great pleasure to help support the outstanding work of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, and to have the opportunity to continue to impact the future of this beautiful species in a positive and meaningful way.” Jordan talks about the zoo's support of CCF in this video Link:  https://youtu.be/nrbPXHuD4Uk

What most people don’t know about CCF’s work is what our Founder and Executive Director Dr. Laurie Marker realized in the late 1970’s. In order to save one species, the entire ecosystem upon which that species lives has to be taken into account. CCF’s holistic approach helps not only the cheetah, but other wildlife like the giraffe and also the people who share the landscape.

In Namibia, CCF monitors the populations of all the wildlife regionally, with key focus on the areas in and around the Greater Waterberg Landscape. With annual waterhole counts and camera traps, CCF has been able to log information on giraffes since 2003. Elizabeth Pius is now working at CCF and completing her honours degree at Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). She is currently managing the research project regarding giraffe population on CCF’s land. This study will help determine the carrying capacity, as well as help researchers and farm managers understand giraffe distribution and social structures.

 

Elizabeth Pius Giraffe Study
Elizabeth Pius Giraffe Study

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Aug 6, 2019

The Year of the Livestock Guarding Dog

Laurie Marker with Anatolian Puppies
Laurie Marker with Anatolian Puppies

This is a very special year for CCF. Our Livestock Guarding Dog program began 25 years ago in February. CCF has decided to celebrate the program anniversary by naming 2019 the Year of the Livestock Guarding Dog. The program holds a special place in my heart. It has been incredibly successful at mitigating human/wildlife conflict not only in Namibia but across the cheetah’s current range.

In the late 70’s, when I was working at Wildlife Safari in Oregon, I became aware of a study happening on local livestock farms. The study was part of a project attempting to address the predation of livestock (specifically sheep) by coyotes in the USA. The study was part of a research partnership between Oregon State University and Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. The two universities were collecting data on Livestock Guarding Dog effectiveness in Oregon as part of a nationwide project lead by Dr. Raymond and Lorna Coppinger.

In March of 1988, following ten years of research, a paper was published – A Decade of Use of Livestock Guarding Dogs. The three main breeds of dogs used by farmers participating in the study were Maremma, Anatolian shepherd, and Shar Planinetz. All have a long history of guarding livestock across Europe. The research paper revealed that participating farmers using a Livestock Guarding Dog, experienced significant decreases in livestock loss due to predation. These results were very interesting to me as I had witnessed first-hand, nearly a decade before, that cheetahs were being killed by farmers in Namibia as a measure to protect livestock.

When I began CCF in 1990, I knew that I wanted to join the study to see if Livestock Guarding Dogs would be as effective in preventing predation in Africa as they had been in the US. I reached out to Hampshire College and in 1994 we set up a pilot Livestock Guarding Dog (LGD) Program on one of the farms in our research area.

Anatolian shepherds were chosen for many reasons. The breed has a 6,000-year pedigree and history of guarding sheep in Turkey. Their short coats protect them from thorns and bushes being caught in their coats, and make it easier for them to adapt to fluctuating temperatures – both hot and cold. Their independent nature and ability to think for themselves means they don’t need to have people with them to successfully guard their livestock. They were the best choice for the conditions faced on Namibian farmlands. They have the will and drive to travel vast distances with their herd due to their natural loyalty and endurance.

In February, 1994, four Anatolian shepherds, the breed of dogs used in the research that took place in Oregon, were established with herds of sheep and goats here in Namibia. The dogs were donated by the Birinci Kennels in the USA.

To familiarize the Namibian farming community with the program, we held several talks with the Farmers Association. We recognized the importance of engaging directly within the community and made farmer outreach the primary objective to build trust in our first four years of operation. A Hampshire College student, Becky Sartini, monitored the program for a five-month period as a part of her honors thesis.

In June of 1994, CCF and Hampshire College brought in a second student, Katie Emanuel. Katie’s family owned Birinci Kennels and they had donated the first 4 dogs, and she brought another six Anatolian shepherds from their kennels. She also conducted her honors thesis at CCF. All but one were puppies of less than 15 weeks of age, and they were placed on six farms. One was an adult female which we were able to breed later in the year. In August, 11 Anatolian puppies were born at CCF’s base and the puppies were placed in farms at the end of September.

Since the program began, CCF has trained and placed over 650 Livestock Guarding Dogs in Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania. The dogs even guarded the goats belonging to Namibia’s Founding President, HE Dr. Sam Nujoma, and were also placed at two of Namibia’s agricultural colleges, so students could learn more about predator-friendly farming techniques. Farmers who employ a CCF LGD report an 80-100% reduction in livestock losses and while the dogs were intended to protect livestock from cheetahs, we found that they are equally effective in guarding against other predators like leopard, jackal and caracal.

The success of the program has inspired several hundred stories in publications and multiple documentary film crews have come from around the world to take footage of the dogs in action. Recently the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation showed a feature on Livestock Guarding Dogs, interviewing farmers about the effectiveness of the program on their farms.

I hope you will join me and hundreds of Namibian farmers in celebrating the 25th anniversary of CCF’s Livestock Guarding Dog Program this year. Please consider supporting the future of the program by becoming a sponsor during 2019, the Year of the Livestock Guarding Dog.

Anatolian Shepard with Goat Herd
Anatolian Shepard with Goat Herd
Anatolian Shepard Puppies
Anatolian Shepard Puppies

Links:

May 9, 2019

Support Dogs Saving Cheetahs

Livestock Guard dog with goats
Livestock Guard dog with goats

In 1994, Laurie Marker embarked on an experiment to determine if livestock guarding dogs – the same kind used in Turkey for 5,000 years — could be effective in reducing predation losses for small stock farmers in Namibia. Today, some 25 years and 650 livestock guarding dogs later, our program celebrates its landmark silver anniversary, and Cheetah Conservation Fund Livestock Guarding Dogs (CCF LGDs) have gained an international reputation as the world’s best protectors of Namibian goats and sheep! 

Known for their imposing physical presence, fierce bark, and loyal, protective nature, our livestock guarding dogs function as a buffer between small stock like goats and sheep and wildlife sharing farmland habitat. They deter most would-be predators with their presence alone, alleviating pressure on farmers to trap or shoot predators on sight. In Namibia, they are credited with saving hundreds of cheetah and other predator lives. 

Before our dogs, farmers were removing 700-800 cheetah a year from the Namibian landscape. They regarded cheetah as pests that have a severe negative impact on livestock farming and the wild game industry. I wrote about this conflict is a research paper published by the Zoological Society of London in 1996, Conservation Strategies for the long-term survival of the Cheetah. In the article, Laurie Marker wrote about the need to engage with local farmers to save the species, 

“The survival of the Namibian Cheetah is in the hands of approximately 1,000 commercial farmers and their willingness to integrate Cheetah conservation efforts into farm management.” 

This was true then, and it is still true today. Laurie would like to thank all Namibian small stock farmers who have agreed to work with CCF and our Livestock Guarding Dogs over the past 25 years, especially the pioneers who were there from the beginning helping us develop the program. Without them, we would not have reached this milestone.

Paige Seitz is our Livestock Guarding Dog Program Manager in Namibia. She juggles caring for pregnant mothers and multiple litters of puppies with assisting farmers seeking placements of our dogs. She has been with CCF for five years, and does an amazing job, as have our previous dog managers. All of them have cared deeply for the dogs, the farmers and cheetahs.

Toivo Tyapa joined us in 2011 as Small Stock Manager on our Model Farm. His interactions with our dogs and CCF’s smallstock dairy herd inform our Future Farmers of Africa trainings, and Tyapa’s recommendations improve our LGD program (yes, Tyapa is his last name, and that’s how we refer to him at CCF — his preference).

Gebhardt ‘Gebs’ Nikanor has been with CCF since 2001, working with our dogs as an Education Officer. Gebs places the dogs on the farms and is the person who remains in contact with farmers to check on each dog’s progress. He has been with us so long, it feels like he’s been with us since the beginning of the program, or almost.

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.

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 rehomed 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.

Most importantly of all, our dogs would not have become a success without you. Your support over the past 25 years has kept our program going strong. Your donations have enabled us to grow in Namibia, and at the same time, have helped launch sister LGD programs in three additional African nations, South Africa, Tananzia and Botswana.

Over the past 25 years, CCF Livestock Guarding Dogs have become the Namibian small stock farmer’s best employee. They are also CCF’s most vital, ‘paws on the ground’ partner in cheetah conservation. Please help us celebrate these amazing working dogs by sharing news about our dogs with your family, friends and social networks. Bark out loud for CCF Livestock Guarding Dogs in 2019!

On behalf of Namibian farmers, their small stock, and cheetahs and other predators spared by CCF Livestock Guarding Dogs, thank you for supporting our program.

 

Tyapa, Page and Gebs
Tyapa, Page and Gebs
Tyapa on the left, Armas on the right
Tyapa on the left, Armas on the right

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