News / USA

US Woman Fights to Save Cheetahs

Just 10,000 of the big cats survive worldwide

Laurie Marker - founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund - with the late Chewbaaka, a cheetah she raised since he was orphaned almost 16 years ago.
Laurie Marker - founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund - with the late Chewbaaka, a cheetah she raised since he was orphaned almost 16 years ago.

Multimedia

Audio

Since ancient times, people have regarded cheetahs with awe for their beauty, grace and unique ability to reach speeds of up to 110 kilometers per hour.

But today, the species - which once ranged across Africa, India and Asia, has dwindled to only 10,000 animals worldwide, primarily in 24 African countries. The species once numbered at 100,000.

Luckily for the cheetahs, Dr. Laurie Marker is on their side.

Learning curve

Marker first started working with cheetahs in the early 1970s, when she ran a wildlife park in the state of Oregon. She says at the time, nobody knew much about cheetahs.

“The more people I asked, they said ‘When you find out something about cheetahs let us know. They don’t do well in captivity. They have a very short life span and we’re losing them throughout the ranges in the world.’ So that just made me fascinated and I wanted to know everything there was about them.”

Marker traveled to Namibia - a southern African country which is home to the world’s largest wild cheetah population - to learn as much about the species as she could.

Threat to cheetahs

In 1990, Marker moved to Namibia permanently and founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a non-profit organization which conducts research and offers educational programs.

The center develops strategies to combat some of the biggest threats to cheetahs, including confrontations with livestock farmers.


Anatolian Shepherd dogs help Namibian farmers protect their livestock from cheetahs. (Cheetah Conservation Fund)

Because cheetahs often prey on the cattle, sheep and goats that now graze on the African savannah, they are often killed by farmers. So Marker started working with local farming communities to find ways to protect their livestock from the big cats.

Guard dogs

In 1994, she introduced the farmers to the Anatolian Shepherd, a breed originally from Turkey.

“This breed has been used for about 5,000 years to protect livestock from predators,” says Marker, “and they act as a guardian by avoidance.”

By barking loudly, the dogs let the predator know that they’re there protecting the flock, and since the predator doesn’t want to get hurt, they will then avoid those flocks where the dogs are, she says.

Marker now breeds and trains the guarding dogs, which don’t herd, but simply put themselves between the livestock and any predators. That is usually enough to discourage the cheetahs from attacking.


Laurie Marker with Koya, a Turkish guarding dog, and Chewbakka.( A.L. Harrington)

Over the past 15 years, CCF has donated more than 400 dogs to Namibian livestock farmers. As a result, there has been up to an 80 percent decrease in livestock losses and farmers have developed more tolerance for having cheetahs around.

Since the introduction of the guard dog program, CCF says the population of cheetahs in Namibia has risen from about 1,000 to 1,500, to between 3,500 and 4,000.

“So we’ve been able to really grow the population,” says Marker, “and again, that’s out of a world population of about 10,000.”

Going global

Marker would like to keep growing that number by expanding the CCF programs into other countries where cheetahs once roamed.

“What we’re trying to do is to actually work together with a variety of partners throughout Africa to look at areas where the cheetahs are, the kind of problems that they are facing and solutions that we can then help the people and the cheetah,” she says.

CCF is also working with the government of Iran - home to less than 100 cheetahs - to double that number within the next 10 years.

Today, Marker is considered one of the world’s leading experts on cheetahs. She travels the world giving speeches and attending fundraisers to increase awareness about this charismatic and highly endangered animal.

“If we are not successful we’re going to lose this amazing species in a very short period of time,” she says.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs