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Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia

by Cheetah Conservation Fund
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Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Laurie in Somoliland
Laurie in Somoliland

Laurie Marker has been touring the United States on her CCF Fall Tour since September and is soon headed back to Somaliland to guide our efforts in fighting the illegal pet trade in cheetahs. Hopefully you saw our exclusive feature on CNN that was also shown on PBS Amanpour & Company on August 16th. Laurie is glad to have the resources and support of conservation NGOs, zoos, and veterinary volunteers who have stepped forward with donated funds, supplies and their time to assist the crisis caused by this illegal wildlife trade in cheetah cub. 

As a conservation scientist and cheetah researcher in Africa, Laurie has witnessed how human action threatens the cheetah. She has also had revelations throughout her 45-year career that change the way she looks at threats to the species. These revelations inspire evolutions of thought and help her decide the best possible strategies to counter. Because of what she has learned in the Horn of Africa this past year, she has a new perspective on the problem of illegal wildlife trade. 

First, the cheetah trafficking threat in the Horn of Africa has reached crisis status. Each year, an estimated 300 cubs are illegally snatched from the landscape, taken from their mothers in Ethiopia, northern Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland, the semi-autonomous, northern region of Somalia, to supply the illegal pet trade. The demand for cubs comes mainly from the wealthier classes. In countries on the Arabian Peninsula, just a short trip across the Gulf of Aden, pet cheetahs are status symbols to display the wealth – like luxury cars.

Second, the reproducing adult cheetah population in these same areas of Africa is estimated at less than 500. Already fragmented and vulnerable, these tiny populations are at risk of being lost due to the illegal wildlife trade in the next few years. The number of cubs being poached is simply not sustainable.

In 2005, Laurie first became aware of the illegal pet trade, informed about a pair of cheetah cubs being held in a rural village in Ethiopia. They were tied to a fence, and villagers were throwing rocks at them. CCF helped arrange for their confiscation, working closely with the Ethiopian wildlife department, and found placement. For the next six years, we monitored reports of activity related to the trade and worked with governments in the Horn of Africa on this issue. This led to a relationship with several of these countries, including the government of Somaliland.

Because of its geographical location, Somaliland is the preferred entry point for traffickers into the Arabian Peninsula. Although not officially recognized as a country, Somaliland has its own democratically elected government, its own currency, and has operated as an independent nation for 28 years. As such, Somaliland is one of the safest, most stable places in the Horn of Africa. It also has the most progressively-minded government.

In 2011, CCF began working with the Ministry of Environment and Rural Development (MoERD) of the Republic of Somaliland, managing the disposition of cheetahs recovered by their Wildlife Officers. For the next five years, CCF arranged for confiscated cats to go to sanctuaries in Ethiopia or Djibouti. But in 2016, Somaliland law changed, and the government required all animals to remain within its borders. Around this time, CCF began training MoERD Wildlife Officers in cheetah handling, and together, we created a facility to manage confiscated cheetah cubs in Hargeisa, the capital city. Currently, CCF has 30 cheetah cubs in its care in two facilities.

Since September 2018, Laurie has made several trips back to Somaliland. What she has seen reminds her much of Namibia, 30 years ago, when she first set up CCF. When she arrived, Namibia was shedding its identity as South West Africa, emerging from the shadows of South African apartheid and struggling for recognition as an independent nation. The landscape was scarred from civil war, encroached by thorn bush from overgrazing by livestock and years of drought. Cheetah populations were on the decline. Namibian farmers were shooting cheetahs as a real and perceived threat to their livestock. But miraculously, the new Namibian government recognized the value in protecting its natural resources and made conservation a constitutional mandate. Because of this, and because of the work of CCF, and because of supporters like yourself, the Namibian cheetah population has stabilized. People come from all over the world to visit Namibia, the “Cheetah Capital of the World.” With the positive attitude of the Somaliland government, and the determination of CCF and our loyal supporters, CCF believes we can successfully replicate this model and protect the cheetahs in the Horn of Africa.

A century ago, Somaliland was covered in lush greenery and full of wild species. But today, the landscape is brown and barren. Climate change, poor landscape management and civil war have resulted in a long drought and famine that has impacted people, livestock and wildlife. One of the early revelations Laurie had in her career was the realization that to help wildlife, you must first help the people who live alongside animals. In Somaliland, rural pastoralists and agriculturalists make up about 25% of the population. CCF’s programs are so important because we work with entire landscapes and the communities living alongside predators. It is not just the cheetahs who desperately need our help, but the people, too!

The final revelation: Future Farmers of Africa and Future Conservationists of Africa are the two CCF programs that will be adapted and scaled to be of great benefit in Somaliland and other parts of East Africa. Just like in Namibia, solving the cheetah conservation crisis involves addressing a complex web of social, economic and environmental issues. Bringing back balance to the landscape, encouraging coexistence among rural livestock farming communities, developing livelihoods and educating the next generation of leaders is how we will help Somaliland. It is how we will help cheetahs in the Horn of Africa rebound and stabilize.

If CCF does not address the illegal pet trade, who will? Please help us stop the illegal pet trade before cheetah populations in the Horn of Africa are lost.

Cheetah Cub in Somaliland
Cheetah Cub in Somaliland
Cheetah Cub in Somaliland eating
Cheetah Cub in Somaliland eating
Neju Jimmy, Dr. Margarita Woc Colburn & Dr. Marker
Neju Jimmy, Dr. Margarita Woc Colburn & Dr. Marker

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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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Dominic and Laurie Marker
Dominic and Laurie Marker

April 3rd is our young cheetah cub, Dominic’s first birthday. He has grown into a beautiful young cheetah. This is a significant day for many other reasons too. On April 3rd, 1991, I arrived in Namibia, moving permanently from the USA with 16 crates full of research equipment, 4 suitcases and my 2 dogs. Then, 25 years later, Chewbaaka a cub I raised from an age as young as Dominic, and our very special CCF Namibia Ambassador, died. April 3rd is a day that gives me pause every year and it’s special now because it’s Dominic’s birthday.

For those of you that have followed the story of CCF’s orphan cub Dominic, April 3, 2019 now marks a special day for his keepers and him as he is turning 1 year old! Dominic came to CCF in April 2018, he was taken in by a lady who’s farm workers had found a man holding him alongside the dirt road asking to sell him. He said he had seen the other cubs and his mother…. The story is very sketchy. The farm workers though knew this was not right and confiscated the cub and gave it to the farms’ teacher, a woman who had a deep care for wildlife.

But, cheetahs are very difficult to care for and unfortunately, she did not have the right facilities or diet to look after him. He became lethargic and unwell after a couple of days. She called the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) who immediately called CCF. One of our staff, Nadja, was able to pick him up from the woman and brought him to the closest veterinary clinic in Windhoek. After being given sub-q fluids and a careful health check, the next day he was taken to CCF.

A cub as young as Dominic, approximately 10 days old, needed 24hr care and attention. At his young age, Dominic had to be bottle fed 24 -hours a day and was cared for round the clock by CCF’s dedicated staff, Lara and Becky and Dr. Robin. However, due to this high amount of human contact he received during his infancy, he is not a candidate for released back into the wild and will remain at CCF as a resident ambassador for his lifetime, as did Chewbaaka, and a some of CCF’s other resident cheetahs. Lara, Becky, Lauren, Bruce and I have been Dominic’s main caretakers from infancy until now.

Lora and Becky, CCF’s cheetah keepers, share this story of how Dominic is doing today.

The first 6 months, Dominic was just around the other cheetahs in the nursery area, where he could see all the adult resident cheetahs at the Centre. When Dominic was about six months old he was introduced to a young female cheetah, Sasha, who is about six months older, and they have been living together ever since. It was a perfect fit for Dominic as he needed a young cheetah companion to help him learn to live with other cheetahs and to learn about cheetah life. The two of them have done quite well together and as of late, Dominic has been soliciting chase and play behaviour with Sasha.

Two weeks ago, another young cheetah named Savannah was confiscated and brought to CCF. She is a similar age and temperament to Dominic and Sasha, so we decided they should meet. Initially, Dominic was more interested in us, his keepers, until he noticed the new female in his enclosure, to which he walked over cautiously and gave a small hiss. Savannah hissed back and their friendship has blossomed from there. After spending more time together, they can be found playing with boomer balls which we use to encourage exercise. They also spend time watching the young antelope that come and drink from the waterhole opposite their enclosure. They are still trying to figure out each other’s boundaries and Dominic always chirps loudly to let Savannah her know how close she can come to him. Dominic is very vocal, from purring to his keepers to chirping to the other cheetahs.

Over the past couple months Dominic has lost his baby teeth and has all his adult teeth now. Just like with human babies, Dominic needed extra care during teething. We would give him blood ice blocks to soothe his mouth and help with inflammation, as this is a very rough time for cubs.

Dominic has also continued to grow, he is now about 2/3rd of his adult weight. He currently weighs just over 25kg which is a far stretch from the 800g he weighed when he first arrived.

Dominic is now perfectly spoon trained as well. This involves taking treats gently from a long handled, purpose-built spoon that has a meat reward in it. It is important for him to learn this skill, as the spoon is often used to help medicate our cheetahs. The ‘spoon’ also acts as a ‘target’, so he can be manoeuvred to different areas when necessary, like asking him to move from pen to pen. Since learning that the spoon will reward him with treats, if we are not quick enough to reward him, he will make his classic loud chirp noise to let us know they’re not being fast enough for him!

As a cheetah, exercise is very important. Dominic has also learned how to run on our mechanical lure course, to keep him in good health. This is where we encourage him to chase a rag that is being pulled along fast by our mechanical lure. On he catches it, he then receives a meat reward on the spoon (his favourite is heart). It is important that we exercise him as he does not hunt for himself. Not only is it good for his physical health but also his mental health. He always gets very excited when he is moved in to the run pen as he gets to engage in play, positive interaction and bonding time with us, his keepers. Dominic likes to run as fast as possible using all his energy in one go unlike the other cheetah that pace themselves. He’s still learning about and perfecting his running skills and is working on the pesky corners of the lure course that he misjudges and takes very wide.

Dominic is a very independent and vocal cheetah. He has no qualms in making his voice heard as loud as possible to attract our attention in case we have extra treats for him! He interacts with other cheetahs the same way, even though he is small in stature he has a very loud voice and likes to make himself heard. If anyone approaches him through the fence, staff, interns or guests, he will always purr as loud as possible! Happy First Birthday, Dominic!!

 

 

Dominic enjoying a soothing ice block
Dominic enjoying a soothing ice block

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HE Shukri, Dr. Marker, Dr. Ismail and P Tricorache
HE Shukri, Dr. Marker, Dr. Ismail and P Tricorache

CHEETAH CONSERVATION FUND DISCUSSES ILLEGAL TRADE AND OTHER CHEETAH ISSUES WITH SOMALILAND MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT AT UK HOUSE OF COMMONS

 

LONDON (7 Dec. 2018) – As part of ongoing efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade in the Horn of Africa, Dr Laurie Marker, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) Founder and Executive Director, and Patricia Tricorache, CCF’s Assistant Director of Illegal Wildlife Trade, took part in a panel discussion at the House of Commons in London on 3rd December 2018. The event, Somaliland Beyond Drought: Saving Wildlife and Protecting the Environment, was hosted by Zac Goldsmith MP and Somaliland’s Mission to the UK and the Commonwealth. In addition to HE Shukri Haji Ismail Bandare, Somaliland’s Minister for Environment and Rural Development (MOERD), Somaliland panellists included Dr Edna Adan Ismail, Director of the Edna Adan Hospital, a non-profit facility that provides healthcare and training, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2003-2006).

“Few people realise that most cheetah stolen from the wild to be sold as pets are at best, a loss for conservation; at worst, likely to die. In addition, wildlife trafficking robs communities of their resources and welfare, since illicit activities breed unsafety, which in turn affects a community’s ability to engage in activities such as eco-tourism”, said Dr Marker. “This event allowed us to raise awareness about these issues and others, including the importance of proper rangeland management and integrated livestock-wildlife management in arid landscapes”.

During her opening remarks, Minister Shukri described the effects of a cyclic recurrence of natural disasters on Somaliland, such as droughts and cyclones, which has left thousands of people internally displaced. Compounded to this, Somaliland has seen a significant increase in the illegal taking of wildlife for the pet trade in the Gulf States during the last 10 years. Despite all odds, including lack of international recognition as an independent nation, Somaliland has been at the forefront of tackling these issues with a focus on putting an end to the illegal wildlife trade by taking a strong stance in prosecuting those involved. Because of the achievements of this small country that he described as a ‘beacon of hope’ in Africa, Goldsmith has taken an interest in exploring measures that can improve the situation for the country.

CCF began fighting the illegal cheetah trade in 2005 and has compiled cases of trafficking of live cheetah or cheetah products through research and direct reports from around the world. It works closely with law enforcement, government and NGOs in Somaliland and internationally to promote efforts that will lead to the confiscation of trafficked cheetahs and the prosecution of poachers. CCF also has a Somaliland-based team currently caring for 12 cheetahs confiscated during the last two years, among other species. Most of these animals are destined to spend the rest of their lives in captivity as they were taken from the wild at such young ages that they lack the skills to survive on their own.

In 2011, CCF began building a network in Somaliland and establishing working relationships with local government authorities. CCF works with Minister Shukri and a group of NGOs and academic institutions to develop strategies aimed at improving enforcement and educating the public on the legal and human aspects of wildlife trafficking. In early 2018, two wildlife officers with the Somaliland MOERD travelled to Namibia to attend a CCF-sponsored conference exploring the human dimensions of natural resource management, Pathways Africa, and later to CCF’s Centre for training in the handling of confiscated animals. On 28 August, Somaliland achieved a landmark victory in court when two subjects charged with wildlife trafficking were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of U.S.$300 – the first successful conviction of cheetah traffickers in Somaliland.

“CCF also supports the government with the placement and care of confiscated cheetahs. We have travelled to Hargeisa to look after very sick cubs and help train staff in veterinary care. Unfortunately, Somaliland lacks the proper infrastructure to care for wildlife; over the last seven years authorities have confiscated 53 cheetahs, and some did not survive due to malnutrition and disease. To address this, we recently began a programme to build capacity for wildlife veterinary services that we hope will also awaken an interest in working with wildlife among students and youth”, said Patricia Tricorache.

There are less than 7,500 cheetahs left in the wild. Since 2005, CCF has recorded nearly 700 cheetahs and cubs taken for the illegal pet trade and smuggled through the Horn of Africa, mostly through Somaliland, to the Middle East. Less than 20% of these are known to have survived. Most smuggling goes undetected, however, so actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

“Not only does trafficking impact cheetahs, but the same people that smuggle cheetahs are also suspected of trafficking humans, drugs and other wildlife products. This is the first time a meeting like this has taken place. We need more opportunities like this to share ideas on how to stop the poachers and reduce demand, before even more harm is done”, said Dr Marker.

Click the link below to Watch Dr. Laurie Marker in Somaliland with two confincated cheetah cubs.

 

Dr. Laurie Maker Holding Weak Cub in Somaliland
Dr. Laurie Maker Holding Weak Cub in Somaliland

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Miers Release
Miers Release

On 26 October 2018 CCF released a single male cheetah into Erindi Private Game Reserve. This cheetah, named Miers, was rescued by CCF this past May after he had been captured for reportedly killing livestock. While CCF was told that the cheetah had been in captivity for only a short period of time, we believe that he had been kept for much longer as he was very habituated to people. After a couple months of rehabilitation at CCF headquarters, Miers was transported to Erindi in August with seven other cheetahs to begin preparation for release.

Because Miers became very habituated to people and human activity, he was not a suitable candidate for release into an open system (like CCF’s property) where he could potentially come into conflict with livestock or people. Fortunately, CCF was currently working with Erindi on a plan to release seven cheetahs into the reserve and they were willing to take an eighth cheetah. Erindi is the perfect release site for Miers as the entire reserve is game fenced meaning that after release Miers would be contained within the reserve (because of the game fence) and therefore would not run the risk of coming into conflict with people or with livestock as Erindi is a reserve entirely dedicated to wildlife.

Anytime CCF releases a cheetah, we prefer to use a release protocol called a ‘soft release’. In general, large mammals have a very strong homing instinct meaning that if they are moved or get lost away from where their normal home range is, their homing instinct kicks in and they are easily able to find their way home. So during a translocation (i.e. moving an animal from one area to another, for example in Miers’ case from his natural home range where he was captured, to CCF and then to Erindi) large mammals, including cheetahs, tend to leave the intended release site in the attempt to get back ‘home’. If a translocation is taking place there is by default an intended release site that we as managers want the animal to stay within. To reduce the homing instinct and to make it more likely for the translocated animal to stay in the intended release site, before release the animal is held in a boma (i.e. small holding enclosure) within the release site for usually a one to three months. This is called a soft release because the holding time within the release site allows the animal being translocated to acclimate to their new surroundings, and research has shown that this reduces the animal’s homing instinct. Miers was transported to Erindi in August 2018 to begin his soft release in preparation for his actual release at the end of October.

In the afternoon of 26 October 2018, CCF Curator Eli Walker and Erindi Guide Barth Balli released Miers into Erindi by luring him out of his boma with meat, which initiated the post-release monitoring period of Miers’ release. Anytime CCF releases a captive-raised or rehabilitated cheetah back into the while, we are very careful to follow up with that individual very closely for the next few weeks. By doing this, we are able to provide the time necessary for that animal to either learn or re-learn how to be self-sufficient once again. Because Miers was originally captured as an adult, his post-release monitoring period will likely be shorter than normal as he already knows what’s necessary to be self-sufficient in the wild. However, until he’s making regular kills, avoiding other predators, and behaving as we would expect, the team from CCF and Erindi will continue to monitor him very closely.

Thus far, Miers’ release has gone very well. He’s very cautious and taking his time to explore Erindi. He’s not made a kill yet as he was so full from his meal during release, but we expect him to make a kill very soon.

 

Eli Walker Luring Miers out with meat
Eli Walker Luring Miers out with meat
Miers the Cheetah eating
Miers the Cheetah eating

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Cheetah Conservation Fund

Location: Alexandria, VA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @Cheetah Conservation
Project Leader:
Beth Fellenstein
Dr.
Otjiwarongo, Namibia
$55,511 raised of $65,000 goal
 
862 donations
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