Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Natasha Zapata and a part of the Travel Bloggers Giveback series. To learn more about TBGB, please visit its Facebook page. If there is an organization you would like to promote with a guest post, please contact me.
“The fastest animal on Earth is running out of time” reads the brochure from the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). But, according to zoologist Dr. Laurie Marker, we can all help change that.
Dr. Marker founded Namibia’s CCF as a result of her travels earlier in her life. In 1977, she traveled to Namibia to conduct research on the re-introduction of captive cheetahs into the wild. It was then she learned of the conflict between livestock farmers and cheetahs. Hundreds were being killed annually. In 1990, she returned and founded CCF to work towards their survival in the wild.
Today, CCF is an internationally recognized research and education center that has become a model for predator conservation worldwide.
Volunteering at CCF
Two years ago, I was privileged to visit the CCF to see firsthand the incredible work Dr. Marker, staff and volunteers perform. There’s is a holistic approach to keeping the wild cheetah from extinction. They teach farmers ways to prevent predation of livestock, educate people about the importance of predators in a functioning ecosystem and are restoring and opening up habitat for cheetah and their prey.
My visit to CCF was exciting and educational. I helped feed the resident cheetahs and was “introduced” to three orphaned up and coming “Ambassador” cheetah cubs. I toured the hospital, research lab, classrooms and education center. I remain a loyal supporter.
The reality for wild cheetahs
Estimates for cheetah remaining in the wild are about 10,000 – a decrease of approximately 90 percent in 100 years. Wild cheetahs have already become extinct in 16 countries where they once roamed. In 20 years, wild cheetahs could become extinct.
It’s no wonder Dr. Marker and CCF are working so hard.
To give cheetahs a fighting chance, the organization operates the Livestock Guarding Dog program which enlists special breeds of dogs to protect livestock and keep cheetahs from attacking. It also manufactures BushBlok® , a clean-burning wood fuel briquette made from acacia bush which is overtaking the cheetah’s habitat. At the same time, CCF has also created a genetics lab, conduct census’ to maintain accurate numbers, and care for more than 50 orphaned and injured cheetahs.
Dr. Marker has received numerous awards and honors, the latest being the 2010 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and after spending time as a volunteer at CCF, it is easy to see why. This remarkable woman has dedicated her life to not letting these “spots” disappear in the wild.
You can help
Aside from donations and a wish list of items needed, there are other ways to help cheetahs with CCF. The organization offers two and four week volunteer stints. For more information, please visit their Web site to learn more.
About the Author: Natasha Zapata is an animal-lover who is a docent at the Staten Island Zoo.