Education Centre Web Tour - Conservation
Conservation is taking care of the environment in which we live. This means using everything wisely so some of it is left for others to use or for our own future use. The things we use are called resources. These can be almost anything: food, the air we breathe, firewood, petrol and zinc roofing panels. Conservationists understand that RESOURCES ARE LIMITED and often scarce and that we must use them wisely. In Namibia, fresh water is one of our scarcest resources.
Conservation also means protecting resources we may not use. Walking around, rather than stepping on a plant, is an act of conservation. Protecting a species like the cheetah from extinction is an act of conservation.
Environmental education encourages the wise use of natural resources including water and land use, waste management and recycling.
Conservation biology is a field of study at universities. It combines several sciences, such as biology, ecology and genetics, to examine why there are so many types of living things on earth and what makes some of them scarce.
VOICE FOR THE CHEETAH
Cheetah Conservation Fund
CCF is currently the only in-situ based cheetah research organisation in the world! The cheetah cannot speak for itself. Researchers, volunteers, farmers and youth are raising voices of support that will carry the cheetah with us through this millennium.
The long-term goal of the Cheetah Conservation Fund is to secure the survival of cheetahs and their ecosystem. CCF continues working through multi-disciplined programmes, establishing systems of management and reducing conflicts between humans and cheetahs. Fieldwork produces data that allows all parties to understand not only the role of the cheetah and other predators, but also the sensitive balance of nature. This understanding assists farmers to develop sound management practices that ensure the ecological balance necessary for increased productivity.
CCF's research, conservation and education programmes promote understanding. Understanding promotes appreciation. Appreciation promotes a willingness to conserve for the future.
Dogs save cheetahs
Livestock guarding dogs have been used for thousands of years to protect cattle, sheep and goats from predator attacks. There are over 20 breeds of guarding dogs. The Anatolian Shepherd, a Turkish breed, was selected as the best candidate for use with small stock in Namibia as they are able to work in vast open spaces without direct guidance. These dogs look similar to the flock, with large rounded heads, floppy ears and short fur. They have a good sense of hearing and smell, a calm temperament and a very loud bark. Anatolians do not herd livestock; they guard them. They are attentive, protective, trustworthy and aggressive towards predatory threats.
Puppies are placed with the stock at eight weeks of age to form a strong bond with the herd. It is important that bonding occurs with the herd and not with humans or other dogs.
Dog owners take the responsibility for the health care of their dog. This includes veterinary check-ups, vaccinations and observation for signs of illness or injuries.
An appropriate diet is necessary for the Anatolian Shepherd. Enough food allows proper growth and a healthy dog. They should never be given raw meat as this could produce a predatory response. They need water during the day when they are out with the herd.
- Attentiveness: Acting as a sentry, the Anatolian is sensitive to any changes in the behaviour of the herd.
- Protectiveness: If a predator approaches the dog is instantly alert. It places itself between the intruder and the herd, faces the intruder and barks. The dog remains with the herd, thus the herd is always protected.
- Trustworthiness: The dog is submissive, investigatory and lacks predatory behaviour.
CCF places puppies with both commercial and communal farmers. Interested farmers can contact CCF to request a puppy.
Farmers as conservationists
Farming alters natural systems, yet farmers can be good conservationists. If the farm is run wisely the land will produce year after year. Farmers collect data that is important for understanding the ecosystem. They measure rainfall, count wildlife and many participate in other census studies. This data is used to develop wildlife-friendly farming practices geared for sustainable use.
Sustainable use practices include:
- Allowing wildlife to move freely through the farm and selectively harvesting to preserve a balanced ecosystem.
- Keeping livestock numbers low and rotating them through camps to allow recovery of vegetation.
- Using non-lethal predator control methods allow predators, prey and livestock to share a well- balanced habitat.
- Setting areas of a farm aside as "wild lands" or "buffer zones" to maintain original plants.
We must be responsible custodians of the land and wildlife!!!
There are many different approaches that can be taken to ensure the conservation of a species. Effective conservation requires cooperation. Although cheetah numbers in other countries are not as high as those in Namibia, it is essential to expand and develop research on those populations. CCF is supported by and collaborates with many organisations and researchers to exchange information and standardise methodology.
How does collaboration help the cheetah?
Namibia is fortunate to have a number of organisations dedicated to conservation. The Large Carnivore Management Forum (LCMF) brings together people who have an interest in carnivore conservation. This includes NGO's (non-governmental organisations), MET (Ministry of Environment and Tourism), veterinarians, park managers, researchers and farmers. Policies are discussed and developed for large carnivore management.
In other countries such as Algeria, Iran, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe, individual and organisational efforts focus attention on the cheetah.
Researchers often use game reserves to conduct behavioural observations and population censuses. Visitors assist researchers by reporting carnivore sightings.
The Cheetah Outreach programme in South Africa takes another approach. This organisation promotes awareness of the plight of the cheetah through education programmes and supports CCF through fundraising. Outreach programmes such as this are important tools for increasing public awareness about conservation issues.
The voice for the cheetah is an international one. It extends beyond boundaries and borders. Even countries that do not have wild cheetahs contribute extensively to the conservation of the cheetah by supporting in-situ projects such as CCF. We must be successful for future generations.
A New Home
If there is a suitable relocation site, the first choice is to release cheetahs back into the wild. Healthy "problem animals" (confirmed livestock killers) can be translocated into areas away from livestock, where there is a wild prey base and limited competition with other predators. Namibian cheetahs are occasionally re-located in other African countries to re-establish cheetah populations in reserves.
Re-introduction of predators is difficult and requires special conservation measures. For re-introduction to be successful, livestock, human issues, size of an area, prey base and existing predator populations needs to be considered. The land made available for re-introduction is usually comparatively small in area and therefore can only support a small population of cheetahs.
An approach known as meta-population management is used to manage small animal populations for long-term survival. Meta-population management does not look at country borders but rather what can be done cooperatively to assist the species. Various small populations and their genes are managed as one large unit, and maintained by translocation.
Air Namibia flies cheetahs from Windhoek to the selected re-location site in a 747 aeroplane. Cheetahs travel in specially designed transport crates in the cargo section of the plane, where temperature and pressure are the same as in the passenger section.
The cats are kept for a few weeks in holding areas to acquaint them with their surroundings. Released cheetahs are closely monitored through the use of radio-telemetry (radio-tracking).
Global collaboration, communication and commitment between in-situ and ex-situ conservationists promote the long-term future for the cheetah. A global master plan for the cheetah works towards keeping a healthy and viable wild population and utilising captive populations through managed breeding programmes and education at all levels.
Non-releasable cheetahs have behavioural or medical problems that prohibit them from living in the wild. Many people in Namibia keep non-releasable cheetahs as educational animals for tourists under the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. As educational ambassadors, captive cheetahs help people realise the need to save these magnificent animals. Most people will never see wild cheetahs in their natural habitat.
Cheetahs that repeatedly catch livestock are considered "problem animals" and should not be released onto farmlands. Problem animals occur when young cubs have been separated from their mothers and can not learn to hunt, or when an animal is old or sick.
It is not necessary to indiscriminately remove healthy cheetahs from the wild. Removal of wild cheetahs adds to the endangered status of the cheetah, as vital genetic material is lost to the wild forever. Managed cooperative breeding between national and international conservation organisations is an important alternative which allows the genes of wild cheetahs to remain in the wild.
Cheetahs are wild animals and do not make appropriate pets. Although easy to tame, cheetahs maintain wild instincts. In captive situations professional care and management is necessary for the welfare of the cheetah and the well-being of people.
Large, stimulating enclosures are important for captive animals. Cheetahs are adapted for bursts of high speed and lead active lives by ranging over large areas. Cheetahs that do not get proper exercise are not healthy.
The wild cheetah's diet includes a variety of fresh food, such as whole hare carcass or portions of larger game. Captive cheetah diets must be heavily supplemented with specially formulated vitamins and minerals that are expensive.
Proper health care
Cheetahs can easily get diseases from domestic cats and dogs. To keep captive cheetahs healthy a vaccination schedule under veterinary supervision must be followed.
Environmental Enrichment is the addition of stimuli in the life of a captive animal to encourage natural behaviours. Animal caretakers around the world understand that the encouragement of natural behaviour enhances the well being of captive animals. Stimulation of any of the animal's senses creates an enriched environment. Individual animals may react differently to the same attempt at enrichment.
Feeding meat on bones increases feeding time and encourages chewing. Setting a lure course allows a cheetah the opportunity to run at top speed. This stimulates the cheetah's proper biological functions (muscles, heart and lungs).
Wild cheetahs experience a variety of smells. Adding odours such as spices, or faeces or urine of other animals may stimulate scent marking.
Landscaping techniques provide play trees and rock outcrops giving cheetahs vantage points and areas of security in their environment.
The Role of Zoos
Modern zoos serve as conservation education centres and provide sanctuary for many endangered species. Cooperative breeding, management and research have assisted in re-establishing some species in the wild.
Historically, cheetahs have not bred well in captivity. In recent years, through cooperative research and management in zoos worldwide, a global master plan is producing successful results. If future extinction were to occur with wild cheetahs, this research and maintained captive populations could allow the re-introduction of cheetahs.
As representatives of the wild cheetah, zoo animals provide the opportunity for hundreds of millions of people around the world to see a cheetah up close.
Through educational programmes, zoos spark the interest of individuals who can support or join projects that will save wild cheetahs.
Zoos, universities, private individuals, governmental and non-governmental organisations support cooperative efforts worldwide. Reproductive, nutritional, medical and behavioural studies, and laboratory analysis are cooperative conservation efforts between captive and wild cheetah.
Zoos contribute to the conservation of wild cheetahs through education, research and support of in-situ work.
To know how to save the cheetah and its habitat we need to understand the animal and its role in the ecosystem. CCF works cooperatively with a variety of institutions to maintain the world's largest cheetah database.
Cheetah health and reproduction research
CCF maintains an extensive physiological database and Genome Resource Bank (GRB). This data provides information for scientific analysis on cheetah morphology, genetics and disease.
Each cheetah handled by CCF is given a complete health screening. Full data collection including body measurements, blood, faecal and sperm samples are taken from each animal. The GRB stores skin, blood and semen samples. Stored deposits ensure the capacity for future research and assisted reproduction.
The first AI (artificial insemination) cub from frozen Namibian cheetah sperm was produced in the USA in 1996. This was a result of a collaborative effort by the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's Cheetah Species Survival Plan and CCF.
CCF gathers and analyses data on cheetah and prey movements, home ranges, habitat use and behaviour. One focus is the habitat and prey of cheetah in the Waterberg Conservancy Area.
Game counts are conducted to understand the dynamics of prey on Namibian farms. Volunteers and local community members join the Waterberg Conservancy members for annual waterhole game counts.
Behaviours of Namibian cheetahs are compared to behaviours of cheetahs from other regions. The use of play trees appears to be unique to Namibian cheetahs.
Radio-collared cheetahs are monitored to study their home ranges and movements through farmlands.
Cheetah population biology
This Program gathers and organizes data on cheetah population demographics. Population estimates assist in determining cheetah conservation status and the development of sound management strategies for sustainable utilization.
All cheetahs handled by CCF are marked using ear tags, subcutaneous transponders and/or radio-collars.
Farmers collaborate with CCF and complete sighting reports. This data is important to CCF's long-term monitoring. CCF works with the Namibian government and other non-governmental organizations (NGO's) to develop and implement a scientifically-based nationwide cheetah census.
Human impacts on the cheetah
CCF Maintains a Database of wildlife and livestock management practices. Information relating to agricultural impact, hunting and cheetahs in captivity is gathered and analysed. The impacts of these activities are assessed to develop "best-practice" plans for reducing threats to predators and their prey. Collaborators include government and non-government organizations. The Cheetah View Conservation Biology Field Station is a base for studies of predator-prey interactions and farming practices.
To Link in situ and ex-situ conservation, CCF maintains the International Studbook and initiates cooperation among national and international conservation organizations.
The livestock guard dog programme aims to reduce indiscriminate removals of cheetah by reducing livestock losses. CCF breeds and places Anatolian Shepherd dogs with local farmers.
Schools, Teachers, Learners
CCF Develops outreach school programmes and educational packets are distributed to students and teachers. All schools are welcome to CCF facilities.
Staff members conduct assemblies throughout Namibia. Students are encouraged to become more involved in conservation in school and in their homes. Workshops assist teachers in initiating cheetah conservation and environmental education programmes.
Educational facilities at CCF's headquarters encourage participation in cheetah conservation. The education centre, the visitor centre, and predator-prey ground provide information in an interactive setting. CCF's wilderness camp allow outdoor education and a wilderness experience. A nature trail highlights the farmland ecosystem and the valuable role of predators.
CCF takes a cross-curricular approach, integrating conservation issues into subjects that are required as part of the school syllabus and donates books to schools and libraries.
CCF works with government agencies to incorporate cheetah conservation in the school curriculum.
CCF shares information on environmental issues to develop commitment for the survival of the cheetah. Local and international participation is encouraged through outreach programmes and CCF education facilities.
Internships provide students and graduates the opportunity to participate in CCF research. Interns participate in all aspects of research and education including data collection, analysis and formal presentation.
International awareness builds support for the cheetah. Research results are published internationally and are presented at professional symposiums and conferences.
The Geo-Cheetah programme launches a toy cheetah between Namibian and overseas schools. Students around the world exchange information while learning about the plight of the cheetah. Sister-school relationships are often formed.
CCF's teacher resource guide and educational packets are supplied to support school programmes nationally and internationally.
Fund raising and awareness events are examples of educational links around the world. CCF has developed regional chapters in several other countries to supports its mission.
Participatory Community events, such as competitions in art poetry and writing, increase conservation awareness.
Public educational displays are maintained at strategic locations and community events. Displays provide introductory information on the plight of the cheetah and the work conducted by CCF.
CCF staff participate in farmer meetings, local conservancy activities and other related events. Workshops and seminars are conducted to exchange information and develop conservation based farming practices.
Cheetah Conservation Fund Vision Statement
WE SEE A WORLD IN WHICH CHEETAHS LIVE AND FLOURISH IN COEXISTENCE WITH PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT.