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Help Dogs Save Cats

by Cheetah Conservation Fund
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Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
Help Dogs Save Cats
LGD puppy at 5 weeks old
LGD puppy at 5 weeks old

Here at CCF, each of our breeding females has one litter per year, some smaller than others. Despite having different mothers, all puppies go through specific stages of life. Here is some insight into the life stages of a Livestock Guarding Dog puppy at CCF.

Week 0 - A dog can have anywhere between one to fourteen puppies, and we find out how many there will be prior to birth through an ultrasound and x-ray. The puppies are born in the kraal, where they will live with their mom for the first several weeks of their lives. After being born, the puppies are weighed and identified by their markings so that we will be able to tell them apart. During their first few days, aside from feeding and changing water for mum, CCF’s LGD team have minimal contact with everyone, as the mums can be very stressed about the puppies or be overprotective of them.

Week 1 - During this week, we focus on making sure that all of the puppies are gaining weight and are healthy. They are weighed every day, and if a puppy weighs less than the others, we assure it receives additional time nursing. 

Week 2 - The puppies are introduced to the world! Their eyes begin to open, and their personalities also emerge. The puppies are free to move around and adjust to their surroundings, though they tend to stay in the shelter. They also begin to wear collars around this age, which act as the form of identification. 

Week 3 - Though still nursing, the puppies start on solid food. The food is portioned out and adjusted over the next few weeks. They begin with food mashed on a tray from which they all eat. The puppies soon graduate to unmashed soaked food, and eventually are given hard food. During this week, the puppies along with their mom are dewormed. 

Week 4 - This is the week of goats! Goats are placed in the kraals with the puppies so that they learn and understand the livestock they will someday protect. The goats are roughly one year old, so they can stand their ground against the puppies if they are being rowdy.

Week 5 - During this week, little changes. The puppies continue to live with their mom and the goats and are fed twice per day. A routine deworming also takes place.

Week 6 - This is another mostly stable week. Little changes, and the puppies are vaccinated with DA2PP.

Week 7 - Puppy aptitude tests are completed. During these, puppies are tested against certain factors they will be introduced to in the field. The purpose of these tests is to get a sense of what each puppy might be like once they become a livestock guarding dog and to foresee of any challenges they may face. Another routine deworming also takes place during this week.

Week 8 - This is a big week for the puppies because they are spayed and neutered! These are completed because if a dog is not spayed or neutered, it might roam looking for another dog to mate with, and we need their focus to be on protecting the herd. Additionally, CCF has a reputation to maintain, so we want to assure that farmers do not intentionally breed our dogs.

Week 9/10 - The puppies receive another routine vaccination and are placed at farms once their incision sites have healed.

The livestock guarding dog puppies are checked on by CCF periodically throughout the rest of their lives, and once they are retired as livestock guarding dogs, become pets

LGD puppies just born
LGD puppies just born
LGD puppies at 9 and 10 weeks
LGD puppies at 9 and 10 weeks
LGD puppies with livestock goat
LGD puppies with livestock goat

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Livestock Guard Dog
Livestock Guard Dog

In 1994, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) began its Livestock

Guarding Dog (LGD) program with four dogs. Twenty-five years later,

CCF’s Livestock Guarding Dogs are considered the Namibian farmer’s best

tool for reducing livestock losses to predation. What started as a research

project to help protect farmer’ s livestock from cheetah and other predators,

today our program has grown, where we have bred and placed nearly 700

dogs and show how they work on our Model Farm.

Over the past two-and-a-half decades, CCF has bred nearly 700 Anatolian

and Kangal LGD puppies to place with smallstock farmers to help protect

their goats and sheep from predators, with the generous support of donors

and partner institutions.

In Namibia, farmers with CCF dogs report a drop in predation losses

ranging between 70 to 100 percent. For communal subsistence farmers,

even the loss of one animal can be financially devastating, so having a CCF

LGD can be like having an insurance policy. Due to their popularity in Namibia,

there is a one-to-two year waiting list for those who wish to get a puppy.

CCF LGDs would not be as successful without the CCF staff who work

hands-on with the dogs. The person who deserves much of this credit and

gratitude is Armas Shaanika. Armas joined CCF’s staff as a herder in 2001,

although previous to working at CCF, he was the header caring for one of

the 1st dogs in the program and he has raised almost all of CCF’s LGDs

since. Although he only speaks Oshiwambo, he has such a way with the

dogs that around CCF, Armas is known as the ‘Livestock Guarding Dog

Whisperer.’

Armas works with our puppies before homing them. He also works with

CCF’s adult dogs that go out with our herds each day. Sometimes we need

to rehome one of the working dogs, and he often works with them with his

herd of goats at CCF’s farm Boskop, where he lives.

CCF maintains herds of Boer goats, Damara sheep and Saanen dairy goats

that total just over 300 animals. The puppies are raised with the small stock,

and as part of LGD training, Armas brings them out to the bush with goat

herds during the day. He evaluates young dogs on field work, and he assesses whether rehomed dogs

are ready to go back to work.  Armas’ current favorite dog is an Anatolian shepherd named Silver (like

our anniversary!), one he favors because she is energetic, alert and listens to his commands.

Without Armas, we would not have realized the full potential of our

work, nor would we be celebrating the success our program has become today. Thanks to Armas, and

our other dedicated staff and volunteers, CCF Livestock Guarding Dogs are the Namibian farmer’s

best employee and CCF’s most vital, ‘paws on the ground’ partner in cheetah conservation.

LITTLE KNOWN CCF LIVESTOCK GUARDING DOG FACT:

Guard dogs are presumed to be the most effective when they are closest to the herd they are

protecting. For this reason, LGD puppies are introduced at a very young age so that they learn to

associate the herd as their own pack and subsequently remain close and protective.

Livestock Guard Dog Herding Goats
Livestock Guard Dog Herding Goats
CCF Staff with Livestock Guard Dog
CCF Staff with Livestock Guard Dog
LGD
LGD

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Lisboa and Calum
Lisboa and Calum

The Cheetah Conservation Fund’s ‘Model Farm’ has been an integral part in mitigating human – wildlife conflict here in Namibia. We invite farmers from all over Namibia to come and understand our successful practices and encourage them to take ideas back to their own farms. Here, we promote livestock management as well as our Livestock Guarding Dog Program.

Recently, we have had a very special addition to our LGD program in the form of a new Anatolian Shepherd. The new eight month old female, Lisboa, was kindly donated by a generous donor and with the help from the the Jardim Zoologico de Lisboa in Portugal, and arrived here at CCF on Wednesday 2nd October. She has settled in very well and quickly and has become a staff and intern favourite with her sweet temperament and stunning looks. When she is older, she will become a pivotal part of our breeding program here at CCF. Her future puppies will help to make a real difference to farmers from across Namibia and who knows maybe further afield!

Lisboa’s arrival coincided with the opening of our new breeding pens, which have been named ‘The Penda Memorial Breeding Pens’ after a very special dog which recently passed away. Penda was an integral part of our breeding program during her time at CCF and then a much-loved pet when she was retired. She lived to the great age of 14 and during her breeding years helped over 50 farmers with dogs to protect their livestock. It seemed only apt that we name the new breeding pens after her. These new pens further cement CCF’s position in wanting to help the local communities, and in turn reduce human – wildlife conflict. With currently 20-30 puppies going out to farms each year, the six new pens allow us to double the amount of breeding individuals we can house, in turn increasing the number of placement puppies each year to around 70. This will be beneficial in helping our three-year waiting list of farmers who have heard about the program’s success.

The ‘Model Farm’ which has grown from strength to strength each year promotes the importance of livestock management in helping reduce livestock losses by 60%. We currently house 105 Boer Goats and 122 Damara Fat Tailed sheep which are the main form of livestock here in Namibia and are used for meat production. It is the high fencing and security of the kraal which is fundamental in keeping out any unwanted predators during the night as well as the loud barking of the dogs. Furthermore, the breeding of livestock at one time of the year (breeding season), allowing group raising of young in goat camps around the kraal until they’re big enough to go out with the herd, helps with this reduction in livestock losses. Finally, the importance of health checks on all of our livestock, both in the morning prior to release into the veld and in the afternoon once they’ve returned, also aids in decreasing livestock loss, as any injuries or illness can be treated promptly.

Both juvenile and ill/injured goat/sheep are very easy meals for any predator in the area! Here, at CCF we also house over 100 dairy goats (which originated from South Africa) to show farmers there is another form of income. and we use our goat’s milk it to make all sorts of cheeses, as well as various flavours of fudges and ice cream to name a few. We recently were donated a new yogurt creamery from our Turkish partners, the Turkish development agency, TIKA.

As part of the ‘Model Farm’ we promote the LGD program; the success of the dogs has resulted in a 80-100% reduction in livestock losses to the farmers who have the dogs. The breed, the Anatolian and Kangal Shepherd originated from two regions in Turkey and when Dr Marker started the programme in 1994 she identified these as ideal breeds for the program due to the similar terrain and temperature in Turkey (high desert) and because they were used to guard against bears and wolves over 5,000 years ago. With them working so well, we have monitored and researched the breed over the 25 years the program has been running. They have a lifespan of 12 – 15 years which is exceptional for a large breed and continue working into their teens. The dogs run perimeter checks when out with the herd, marking their territory; this smell of another predator (the dog) in the area is enough to deter most predators. If something does come closer the dog will stand between the herd and the predator and bark loudly and this takes away the easiness of the meal.

CCF’s breeding program is integral, helping the Namibian farmers in this manner. These dogs can have litters of average 8 puppies, and as with Lisboa, who came to us all the way from Portugal, we bring in dogs from countries outside of Namibia to maintain a strong genetic bloodline within our population of dogs, leading to the healthiest puppies possible. These puppies will grow up at CCF until they are 11 weeks of age, at which time they have been vaccinated, and neuters and are then placed on farms to begin the initial bonding process with the herd they will be guarding. They grow up within the herd and start going out with them at about 3 months of age, starting with half days and building up to full days. We conduct 3 month, 6 month and subsequent yearly visits to carry out check-ups and vaccinations on the dog. We currently have 165 dogs out on farms that we monitor regularly as well as the 17 at CCF. This is a mammoth task. However, with the help of an impressive team of Stella Emvula and Gebhardt Nikanor this becomes a much easier task and to date this program has placed 651 dogs!

I describe the LGD section as the best section of CCF. These dogs are the individuals who will truly be keeping Cheetahs in the wild safe. We are saving cheetahs one dog at a time!

 

 

New Dancing Goat Creamery and CCF Staff
New Dancing Goat Creamery and CCF Staff
Lisboa and Calum by termite mound
Lisboa and Calum by termite mound

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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

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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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Organization Information

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Location: Alexandria, VA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Cheetah Conservation
Project Leader:
Shannon Sharp
Operations Director
Alexandria, VA United States
$15,316 raised of $20,000 goal
 
551 donations
$4,684 to go
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