Animals
 Namibia
Project #2578

Help Dogs Save Cats

by Cheetah Conservation Fund
Vetted
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:

Welcome our new puppy, Bolt!
Welcome our new puppy, Bolt!

Please help us welcome Bolt, the newest addition to CCF's Livestock Guarding Dog Breeding Program! This little guy, who is 11 weeks old, came to CCF from Taylor Farm in Texas, USA.  Bolt is being welcomed by Hercules our Livestock Guarding Dog ambassador (on the right) in the photo above.

The mother and father of this puppy are both originally from Turkey, meaning new bloodlines can be added to our breeding colony! The puppy had a long journey over to Namibia, but was a very well behaved boy throughout the trip. He is already making friends with the other breeding dogs at CCF and seems to be enjoying his new home. 

CCF's renowned Livestock Guarding Dog Program has beeen highly effective at reducing predation rates and thereby reducing the inclination by farmers to trap or shoot cheetahs. 

CCF has been placing dogs since 1994 and our research shows that dogs are highly effective, reducing livestock loss from all predators by over 80 and up to 100 percent.  Farmers adopt CCF dogs and participate in education on how to train the dog. CCF does on site follow up visits to ensure the dogs have proper training and medical care, and are settling into their guardian role. Farmers have enthusistically embraced the program, and there is now a two year waiting list for puppies, which makes Bolt's role even more important to CCF's Livestock Guarding Dog Breeding Progam.

Bolt getting used to his new comforts of home
Bolt getting used to his new comforts of home
Livestock Guarding Dog Program in Action
Livestock Guarding Dog Program in Action

Links:

Puppies are on the way!
Puppies are on the way!

Lady’s Ultrasound – New Puppies on the Way

Today the vet team (Andrew DiSalvo, Emma Alfonso, and Liz Wood) performed an abdominal ultrasound on Lady, one of our Anatolian Shepherd dogs. We use ultrasound as a tool to detect pregnancy, and today’s results show that she is pregnant with her first litter! The gestation period (pregnancy length) in a dog is 63 days. Abdominal ultrasound can be used to detect pregnancy in a female dog as early as 20-25 days of gestation. Ultrasound provides a non-invasive way to check for pregnancy; gel is applied to the animal’s fur and skin to ensure good contact with the ultrasound probe, and an image of the structures beneath the skin appear on a screen as the probe is moved by the veterinarian. While Lady is in the early stages of her pregnancy, an embryo was visible today (the white dot on the ultrasound machine picture). We will recheck her again in a few weeks to see if her pregnancy is still on a healthy path.

Here at CCF, we breed Anatolian Shepherds and Kangal dogs as part of our Livestock Guarding Dog programme. These dogs are used by Namibian farmers to protect their livestock, thereby reducing livestock predation by local carnivores. This also reduces the conflict between farmers and cheetahs, which can help save the lives of wild cheetahs and other carnivores. This program plays an essential role in cheetah conservation, by addressing the concerns of local farmers and eliciting their help in protecting the wild cheetah.

We are very excited to have puppies at CCF soon! Congratulations, Lady!

 

Lady’s Pregnancy – Almost There!

At 45 days in to a dog’s pregnancy the bones of the puppies begin to calcify, meaning you can see the puppies on an X-ray. Below you can see some X-rays that were taken of our pregnant Anatolian, Lady, to allow us to get an estimate of how many puppies she will have. We believe we could see 7-8 puppies on the X-ray. However, this is never an exact number, but it allows us to be more prepared and make sure no issues occur during her pregnancy.

Lady will have her first litter in the next couple of days. At 9 weeks old these puppies will then be placed with Namibian farmers to begin their training in guarding the farmer’s livestock against predation. Research shows that these dogs have helped farmers see an 80-100% reduction in their livestock losses which is beneficial to the farmer’s livelihood and to the predator population. Everyone at CCF is super excited for more puppies so we can help more farmers as there is quite the demand for these guarding dogs!

See the embryo above, its the white dot
See the embryo above, its the white dot
Lady gets her ultrasound from the veterinarian
Lady gets her ultrasound from the veterinarian
X-Ray of Ladies Puppies
X-Ray of Ladies Puppies

Links:

Spots working with the LSGD
Spots working with the LSGD

Seeing Spots

Spots is not your average Livestock Guarding Dog. First, he is from the Netherlands. He came to CCF about 9 or 10 years ago from a partner big cat organization called Stichting SPOTS (Save and Protect Our Treasures). Second, his life is anything but average. Besides being a worldly, well-traveled canine, Spots loves to work and is known to be something of a teacher. So when CCF received a telephone call from a farmer with problem cheetahs who was considering shooting the animals as his next move, CCF offered to loan him Spots services as a Livestock Guarding Dog, a non-lethal and albeit temporary alternative.

The farmer, who is also a leader within the Namibian Agricultural Union, gladly accepted and Spots has been working in the field since last November. So far, Spots has successfully discouraged predation, and no cheetahs have lost their lives. Spots will remain on the farm until CCF has a Livestock Guarding Dog puppy to give the farmer, then Spots will come back to CCF. But before he does, Spots will help raise the puppy, imparting his excellent work ethic and guarding dog skills as the pup’s role model.

New Pens for Pups

In attempt to keep up with the demand for puppies, we have been producing more litters of Livestock Guarding Dogs than ever. This is great news for farmers and cheetahs, but not so much for the dogs that live here on our model farm. We are at capacity with our dog housing facilities. We need to build three more dog pens ASAP to accommodate all of the new puppies we will be expecting soon.

Herkul, Herkul!

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true -- our ambassador-in-training Livestock Guarding Dog Herkul just turned six months old. From the appearance of this strapping young fellow, you would never think he had such a difficult time entering this world, or that he was the sole survivor from a litter of four, fighting just to stay alive. Today, Herkul spends his time practicing the social skills necessary for him to successfully interact with the public.  He also spends time hanging out with other CCF dogs on the ambassador track, like scat sniffing dog Finn. Getting older, Finn is no longer working full time in the field and is being groomed as an ambassador representing the scat-sniffing dog program. His calm demeanor and even temperament provide a good behavior model for Herkul, and hopefully this will rub off. The good news is this lovable pup is excellent with people and other dogs and is already exhibiting signs of having the right type of personality to become a successful ambassador. This and the fact that he began his training at an early age, give him a leg up on the competition – plus it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s so darn handsome!

Keeping Score in Hereroland

It’s been a little more than a year since CCF began work in Hereroland with the Greater Waterberg Landscape Initiative, bringing Future Farmers of Africa training courses and veterinary expertise to rural farming communities in this remote area. So far, all signs are pointing to success.

“Every month in eight villages, CCF staff offered trainings -- a total of 82 in 2015 -- and the response we received was overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Laurie Marker. “Part of what we found is that farmers really appreciated the information we provided for them. We determined that about 65% of losses could be resolved through better livestock management, meaning better livelihoods are in their own hands.”

Through the trainings, CCF staff found the basic veterinary care they were teaching – things like hoof trimming, de-worming, and vaccinations -- were not getting done for most livestock animals. All are simple procedures, yet critical for good health.

“Before we came along, no one ever helped the farmers learn about this or other basic livestock care,” said Andrew Di Salvo, CCF Veterinarian.

To encourage farmers to engage in better livestock management practices, Dr. Di Salvo and a veterinary student visited the farms in the region. While there, they assessed the farmer’s operations and checked on the animals, discussing any problems and offering advice on how to fix. During each visit, Dr. Di Salvo and his assistant assigned a rating to the farmer and recorded it on a scorecard to track his or her progress. On subsequent farm visits, the farmer will be assessed on how well he or she implemented CCF’s advice in order to achieve a higher score.

“Better quality livestock will bring in better price,” Said Dr. Marker. “We will focus on improving this area for the next five years, and we will train paravets at CCF from each of the eight focal areas -- people who are interested in animal healthcare – to help us get the scores up.”

New dog pens!
New dog pens!
Herkul
Herkul
A pup with dogs
A pup with dogs

Links:

New Mommy
New Mommy

This year, CCF has had 41 puppies born from a total of 5 litters. Only 27 of the 41 have been placed on farms as 5 were stillborns, 1 will stay at CCF as an ambassador dog, and the remaining 8 will go out to their new farms around mid-January. Another female, Repet, is due at the end of December, with her puppies going out in the beginning of March. These puppies will all be a part of the field of conservation by helping to save the wild cheetah by protecting farmers' livestock from predation and in return the farmers allowing predators to live freely and safely on their land.

The 8 puppies, still at CCF, are from our female Karibib and they are getting bigger by the day and have just opened their eyes. The puppies' ears are also opening and they have begun walking around their house. The puppy house is now filled with wobbly puppies and the sounds of howls as they can finally hear themselves and are quite impressed with their own sounds.

In other puppy news, our little survivor Hercules is growing up big and strong. He is now 4 months old and 15 kg. He has also proved his great ambassador skills by helping to welcome the Turkish Ambassador and the TIKA (Turkish International Cooperation Development Agency) team when they came to visit CCF to donate a car for the dog programme. This car will allow the dog programme to accomplish regular visits to the farms that house placed working dogs to check on their health and training.

Besides having TIKA come for a visit, we also had the German breeders who donated our female Kangal, Aleya, visit for a few days. They were very happy with Aleya's attitude towards her work and were so excited to give her some hugs and belly scratches. They even got to see one of her puppies that recently went out, at his farm. They are very interested in possibly donating another dog to CCF next year, which will be another asset to CCF's breeding programme.

CCF has had a lot of great things happen for the dog programme this year and we hope this success continues in 2016. Thanks to everyone for all of your support!

Proud mom and her puppies
Proud mom and her puppies
Hercules is growing fast!
Hercules is growing fast!

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Location: Alexandria, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.cheetah.org
Project Leader:
Shannon Sharp
Operations Director
Alexandria, VA United States
2016 Year End Campaign
Time left to give
$9,990 raised of $20,000 goal
 
387 donations
$10,010 to go
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