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Celebrating the Almighty Cheetah

Posted on Dec 06,2011
Filed Under Pets , Community,

Photo by John Arundel<br />The almighty cheetah.
Photo by John Arundel
The almighty cheetah.

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - The Alexandria-based organization dedicated to saving the wild cheetah has declared December 4 as International Cheetah Day, to raise awareness about the plight of the most endangered cat in Africa and Iran.

This comes amid recent reports of the plight of big cats in Africa and the news of the extinction of a species of rhinoceros.

Photo courtesy of the Cheetah Conservation Fund <br />The Okakarara cubs, four of CCF's orphan cheetahs being trained as Educational Ambassadors.
Photo courtesy of the Cheetah Conservation Fund
The Okakarara cubs, four of CCF's orphan
cheetahs being trained as Educational

Dr. Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), made the declaration from CCF’s Education and Research Facility in Otjiwarongo Namibia.

“With the launch of the International Cheetah Day, we at CCF hope to increase worldwide awareness about Africa and Iran’s most endangered cat,” said Marker.

Marker's announcement was made amid the backdrop of recent disturbing news reports demonstrating the need for wildlife conservation awareness.

In late October, USA Today reported that many conservation experts are warning of the extinction of big cats, including the cheetah, in Africa in as little as two decades.

The reality of this possibility was highlighted by a November article on National Geographic’s website announcing that an international wildlife organization has declared the Javan rhinoceros as extinct in mainland Asia after the last known Javan Rhinoceros there was shot and killed last year. Only 50 of the creatures remain in Indonesia.

“The threat of extinction to the cheetah, other big cats and many other species of wildlife worldwide is real and looming,” Marker said. “Increased awareness of the plight of these creatures, as well as greater support of conservation efforts, is vital if we hope to ensure their survival.”

Photo by John Arundel<br />Dr. Laurie Marker. <br />
Photo by John Arundel
Dr. Laurie Marker.

Marker worked with IUCN to feature the cheetah on its Red List Species of the Day on  December 4, 2010. This date was chosen to celebrate the birth of Khayam, a cheetah raised by Marker in Oregon and brought to Namibia 35 years ago to conduct reintroduction research. With Khayam in Namibia, Marker learned that conservation is as much about people as it is about animals.

The Species of the Day is a joint project of the IUCN Species Programme and the Species Survival Commission (SSC) to increase awareness of the enormous variety of life on our planet and to raise the profile of threatened species. The programme was produced with the support of the United Nations Development Programme and ARKive, the ultimate online multimedia guide to the world's endangered species.

The CCF will celebrate the day with the graduation of 27 international practitioners from eight cheetah-range countries. These conservation scientists spent the last two weeks at CCF learning about mitigations techniques to reduce human and livestock conflict with predators. Since 2009, over 300 conservation scientists from 15 cheetah-range countries have participated in CCF's international courses made possible by the support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Photo Courtesy of the Cheetah Conservation Fund<br />International Conservation Biology Students graduating at the Cheetah Conservation Fund on December 4, International Cheetah Day.
Photo Courtesy of the Cheetah Conservation Fund
International Conservation Biology Students
graduating at the Cheetah Conservation
Fund on December 4, International Cheetah

The wild cheetah population has decreased 90% in just over 100 years, from 100,000 in 44 countries at end of the 19th century to approximately 10,000 today found in 23 African countries, with a small group (approximately 70) in Iran. CCF aims to conserve the cheetah and ultimately ensure its future on our planet by working with all stakeholders within the cheetah’s ecosystem to develop best practices in research, education and ecology and create a sustainable model from which all other species, including people, will benefit.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund, with over 20 years in helping to save the wild cheetah, is a Namibian, USA, UK and Canadian non-profit trust dedicated to the long-term survival of the cheetah and its ecosystems.

Since 1990, the organization has developed education and conservation programs based on its bio-medical and ecological cheetah research, published scientific research papers and has presented educational programs to more than 350,000 outreach school learners, donated nearly 400 livestock guarding dogs to commercial and communal farmers as part of the CCF innovative non-lethal livestock management program, and has established a cheetah genome resource bank of cheetah sperm, tissue and blood samples.

Research into cheetah biology and ecology has greatly increased our understanding of the fastest land animal and education programs for schools and the farming community help change public attitudes to allow predator and humans to co-exist. However, despite the many successes of CCF programs, the cheetah is still Africa’s most endangered big cat with approximately 10,000 cheetahs remaining.

Cheetah populations continue to decline throughout their range in Africa due to habitat and prey loss. This situation is exacerbated in poor rural areas where subsistence farming practices can lead to increased farmer-cheetah conflict, with serious consequences on both sides. Cheetah survival is therefore dependent on training subsistence farmers to improve their management practices, for the benefit of all.  
Marker has encouraged farmers to take a unified and systematic approach to cheetah conservation including research, monitoring and conflict mitigation measures.

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