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
Dec 6, 2016

New Orphaned Cheetah Cubs Update

Cheetah Cub Wary of Humans
Cheetah Cub Wary of Humans

Our orphaned cheetah cubs here at Cheetah Conservation Fund are growing in leaps and bounds. In late July, five cubs came to us at four months of age with four being female and one being male. Half way through August we unfortunately had to bring in three more orphaned cubs at almost a year of age – two male and a single female – as their mother, Zinzi, was killed by a leopard.

 

With the hope of release back into the wild when they are old and strong enough, the cheetah team has to make sure these cheetah cubs remain wary of humans and are not habituated to their presence. We intend to make every effort to keep their wild instincts intact. Very few staff members have the ability to interact with these cubs and they are not visible to the public. This is to make sure the cubs do not become accustomed to people and vehicles which is vital for their survival in the wild.

 

With the use of special feeding and care techniques the cheetah team is able to have as little contact as possible while completing their husbandry tasks. Their daily routine involves making sure the pens are intact and clear of debris, their water is fresh, and they are getting a proper amount of food. In the wild, cheetahs may not necessarily eat every day and in order to mimic this behavior, the cheetah team uses fasting days in order for the cubs to maintain a healthy digestive system. The cheetah care team sets a series of enclosures to lure the cubs into a secluded spot for meals. This allows the team to clean their enclosures and maintain distance with as little contact as possible.

At the moment, CCF has separated the males from the females in both age groups. The reason for this is to introduce the younger male, from the litter of five, to the two older males from Zinzi’s litter, in hopes they will form a coalition and then they can be released as a unit. The younger orphaned male cub will have a better chance in the wild if he is part of a coalition. CCF also hopes to repeat this process with the female cubs from both litters. This will hopefully give all the orphaned cubs a better chance of survival in the wild.

Since the cubs’ arrival, they are growing more independent and brave by the day. It is clear to see which cubs in the litters take on certain roles such as: the most dominant, the look out, and the leader. Each cub has their own personality which is a good way for the cheetah team to tell them apart along with their distinguished spotted pattern. It is good to see the cubs becoming individual’s while still remaining very wary of anyone who comes by. Their hisses, spats, and cheetah slaps are very much appreciated!

Cheetah Cub Feeding
Cheetah Cub Feeding
Cheetah Cub
Cheetah Cub

Links:

Dec 6, 2016

Livestock Guarding Dogs Protect Cheetahs & Wolves

Livestock dog
Livestock dog

Cheetahs in Africa and wolves in North America have a lot in common. They are both top predators, they are both considered threats to livestock, and people are increasing their use of livestock guarding dogs to protect their herds from them. Incidentally, this benefits both the farmers, decreasing the number of animals lost each year to predators, as well as the predators themselves because there are fewer cheetahs and wolves killed to protect livestock. For two species that are considered endangered, the increasing use of this non-lethal method to keep predators away can have a great impact on the ability for these species to increase their population size as well.

Misperceptions about Cheetahs

Imagine the life of an African farmer… Living on different forms of income generated from the land, such as farming crops, raising and selling livestock, and even poaching when they become really desperate. Their annual income may be less than $8,000. They may not have electricity, a car, or easy access to health care. They work long back-breaking days to feed their family. However, sharing land with African predators means a farmer may occasionally find partially eaten carcasses of their livestock – a very costly loss! Even one animal gone from the herd can impact a farmer’s livelihood.

 

Cheetahs are threatened by extinction and listed as Vulnerable in Appendix I by the Convention on Trade for Endangered Species (CITES). This can lead to less than ideal solutions for farmers to prevent further death of their livestock when they do find a dead goat. Do they hunt down the suspected cheetah and risk a heavy fine (in some countries), or do they leave the cheetah alone, risking further deaths of their livestock?

One of the big obstacles to saving cheetahs in Africa is the perception that they are nuisance species that intentionally hang around farms to prey upon livestock. There are several basic cheetah habits that contribute to the misperception that cheetahs roam farmlands to kill and eat livestock. With the loss of habitat, the best option would be to live in protected reserves. This includes species like lions, who are competition for cheetahs and are known to steal their kills. To reduce this competition with other predators, and have access to their natural prey species, the vast majority of cheetahs are found outside protected areas on livestock farmland. 

Also, cheetahs actually prefer to eat wild species – ones they are familiar with, that have evolved alongside them. Therefore, managing a wild prey base is very important. Cheetahs can kill livestock, but this is more common when the livestock has no protection from a herder, guarding dog, it is not corralled, or there is no wild prey. Cheetahs may also kill livestock when they become desperate for food, in particular they would prey on those animals which are lame or sick or lag behind the rest of the herd. Unfortunately, in many areas, there is very little wildlife left due to increased poaching. Continued poaching leaves cheetahs looking at local livestock herds for food more frequently. As Africa’s human population increases and poverty continues unabated, habitat loss will increase, and the wild species cheetahs prey upon will decrease. Fewer wild prey species increases the number of livestock killed by predators and increases human-predator conflict. One thing farmers may not be aware of is that by simply using a better method of protection, their livestock may survive better and they wouldn’t have to worry about predators as much.

Wolves Face Similar Problems

Wolves in North America are also seen as predators who will attack and kill livestock. Like farmers in Africa, ranchers in North America depend upon the income generated by their livestock, and they don’t always use alternate forms of livestock management. The death of an animal is a very serious problem and lethal actions may appear to be a quick solution. Currently, wolves are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service across much of the United States. This is important to help protect them and encourage their populations to grow. For ranchers, an endangered status for wolves limits their ability to manage threats to their herds through lethal means. 

In a study by Wielgus and Peebles published in PLOS ONE in December of 2014 it was found that killing wolves is associated with more livestock deaths the following year. It was suggested that the death of wolves in the region leaves open habitat for new wolves to occupy. This may mean a new pair of wolves will take over the territory. As they have pups and the pack grows more wolves will occupy the area. Young wolves may not know the human-associated dangers of killing livestock, increasing the chance of a negative human-wolf encounter. Livestock management is a much better option to help reduce the death of livestock.

Livestock Guarding Dogs to Protect Herds

There are several ways that farmers can help control cheetahs and wolves to keep them away from their herds without killing the predator. One increasingly popular way to combat the issue is to use a livestock guarding dog (LGD). There are over 20 breeds of guarding dogs, most from Europe, that have been guarding livestock for several thousand years. These dogs live with the herd instead of as pets in homes. They have bonded with the livestock from a very early age and will protect them from predators that may become interested in the herd. 

LGDs have been shown to be effective at preventing the death of livestock. In Namibia, the Cheetah Conservation Fund began a LGD program in 1994 using the Anatolian Shepherd and the Kangal, a dog breed from Turkey. They have placed nearly 600 dogs with livestock farmers, providing training in integrated livestock and wildlife management. Over 80 percent of farmers have reported a decrease in the livestock lost when using a LGD. Most breeds of LGDs have been used for centuries to protect livestock from wolves, but the practice decreased as rural farmers became more urbanized. Some dogs used in the United States include the Kangal, the Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, and the Akbash.

Selecting the best breed, number of dogs, and specific dog of that breed for each herd is important. Some of the best dogs for livestock protection are large, have a loud bark, are well bonded to their animals, and stay with the herd, but they do not herd the flock. If a dog were to chase away a predator both the dog and the herd are at an increased risk of attack. Larger herds need more dogs to make sure all the animals are protected, allowing the dogs to encircle a herd when needed. With wolves the ideal situation would be to create a dog packthat the wolves see as competition. Then the wolves would stay out of the dog pack’s territory leaving the herd of animals alone.

LGDs can be purchased within the United States from LGD breeders, such as Taylor Farms in Texas. They sell Turkish breeds, including the Kangal and Akbash, which have great reputations as guard dogs. The use of an animal to protect livestock is an environmentally sound way to also help maintain wildlife populations. It may not be possible to save cheetahs and wolves without the use of natural protective methods like LGDs, which greatly reduce the threat they face from farmers. It is wonderful that so many farmers today are adopting this practice!

For more info on how wolves and cheetahs can be saved using non-lethal methods check out this great video interview from 2015 between CCF’s Dr. Laurie Marker and Virginia Busch, the executive director of the Endangered Wolf Center. We also hosted it on our site at the link below.

http://cheetah.org/2015/12/dr-marker-at-endangered-wolf-center-video-interview/

Cheetah monitored by camera trap
Cheetah monitored by camera trap
Mexican Wolf
Mexican Wolf

Links:

Sep 7, 2016

New Orphaned Cheetah Cubs Need Your Help

Orphaned Cheetahs
Orphaned Cheetahs

August of this year Cheetah Conservation Fund became the guardian of five newly orphaned cheetah cubs. Their mother was killed while hunting on a game farm near Waterberg, so our cheetah team drove out to pick-up the four-month-old cubs. They had been in a trap for a few days; fortunately it’s currently winter in Namibia so they were not in danger of overheating, but they were all very scared and tired.

These cubs are very young, although we will do all we can to try to see their possible re-wilding, they may not succeed and therefore may stay at CCF for the rest of their lives. We are currently assessing their health and getting them accustomed to their new surroundings. We need support more than ever to help provide care and treatment for them. Their arrival was unanticipated and the reason they are with us is truly tragic.

These little cubs are not the only orphans new to CCF.  Just recently, Zinzi, a re-wilded cheetah, who successfully raised her wild-born cubs and has been followed by CCF's supporters for the past few years was killed by a leopard in the wild, leaving three orphaned cubs behind. On 13 August 2016, we had to say goodbye to Zinzi.  Sometime during the evening before, while travelling with her cubs Zinzi came across a leopard.  We can't be 100% clear on the specifics of what happened but it does appear that the leopard managed to catch and kill Zinzi while she was defending her cubs.  Regardless of what happened exactly, with her last act Zinzi once again proved herself a supermom as the next day we confirmed that all three of her cubs had survived the incident.  We immediately devised a plan and we successfully captured all three.  At 11 months old, the cubs would not have had good chances of survival on their own, but just like their mother we will plan to release them when they are old enough to take care of themselves. Though we are all so incredibly saddened by the loss of Zinzi, we know that her legacy will continue through her three cubs that she had raised so very well.  Zinzi's release was successful and though her life ended early, the cause was completely natural and could have happened to any wild cheetah.  

Though CCF runs a rescue, having cheetahs in captivity has never been, and never will be our goal.  As much as we can, we try our best to return as many cheetahs as possible to the wild where they belong.  This process however is incredibly difficult and the majority of our resident cheetahs are not suitable for release into the wild.

A wild cheetah, particularly a female, has a very difficult life.  From the time that she leaves her mother and any of her siblings (brothers and sisters alike), she is on her own.  The only time she will have contact with other cheetahs is briefly (just a couple days) when she is mating or when she has cubs (together an average of 18 months).  When she is mating, eating/hunting is not on the agenda and when she has cubs, she has on average four to six hungry mouths to feed in addition to her own with literally no support from other individuals.  Once her cubs are over one year of age, they will start assisting with hunts but often times they are more trouble than help as their immature antics will often ruin hunts.  The cubs improve substantially over time with teaching from mom, but by the time they really get good at hunting it's time to leave mom and head out into the world on their own and the female cheetah starts the entire process all over again.  Therefore, it's safe to say that a female cheetah is more or less 100% dependent upon herself, and for many months of her life has cubs that are 100% dependent upon her and her alone.  This is why we say all the time that female cheetahs are SuperMoms, and if you ever get to see the process first hand you will undoutedly agree.

 

 

 

Zinzi the Cheetah
Zinzi the Cheetah
Zinzi and cubs caught on camera trap
Zinzi and cubs caught on camera trap
Zinzi and cub with same intimidation pose
Zinzi and cub with same intimidation pose

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