Cheetahs and Sheep Dogs

Waterberg Travel Blog

 › entry 11 of 12 › view all entries

We leave Etosha and travel via the Cheetah Conservation Foundation at Otjiwarongo to the Waterberg Plateau Park. The CCF is an internationally recognised centre of excellence in research and education on cheetahs and their eco-systems with an extensive visitor’s centre which encourages visitors to learn more about these beautiful cats and the efforts being made to save them.

The world's fastest land animal, the cheetah, can reach speeds of 70 mph. The most specialized member of the cat family, the cheetah also is the most endangered cat in Africa.

Namibia has the world's largest cheetah population. Approximately 3,000 cheetahs share the land with humans, livestock and wildlife.

As human populations grew in the 1970's, the amount of land devoted to livestock farming steadily increased. Livestock filled the open land where cheetahs roamed. Natural prey became scarce. Farmers killed other large predators. Although game reserves protected them, cheetahs could not compete against hyenas and lions. Farmlands offered cheetahs a safe haven, but they sometimes killed livestock.

Farmers saw cheetahs more frequently and thought their numbers had increased. Cheetahs took the blame for most predator-related livestock losses. Farmers killed cheetahs by the thousands as pests or to sell their skins to the fur trade.

By 1975, researchers realized that the cheetah was in trouble. CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) placed the cheetah on Appendix I, making international trade in live cheetah or cheetah products illegal.

Local laws supported CITES in many countries where cheetahs still lived. Researchers began looking for ways to encourage the growth of cheetah populations through land management practices.

In the 1980's cheetah numbers declined by half. Each year farmers removed 700 - 800 cheetahs from the wild. Southern Africa still holds two-thirds of the world's remaining wild cheetahs. Cheetah population size in many regions may be too small to be viable for survival.

Today, the status of the Namibian cheetah is stabilising. During the 1980's, the population of Namibian cheetahs declined by half. In this 10-year period, nearly 7,000 cheetahs were removed from the wild.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund's Livestock Guarding Dog program is a successful, innovative program that has been helping to save the wild cheetah in Namibia since 1994.

 In addition to directly saving the cheetah from indiscriminate removal from the farmlands where they live, this program also fosters goodwill between CCF and the farmers, thus improving the cheetah's chances for survival.

The Anatolian Shepherd is a guard dog of ancient lineage; probably originating from large hunting dogs in ancient Mesopotamia. The breed evolved over time to be able to travel great distances across the arid Anatolian Plateau region of Turkey and Asia Minor. This environment is very similar to Namibia, with very little rain, extreme heat in summer and cold in winter.This program is an extension of a livestock management practice already used by Namibian farmers. Some farmers have used other breeds of smaller dogs to protect their livestock, so introducing these breeds was a logical extension of the practices already utilized by Namibian farmers of the region.

The program involves selective breeding of dogs, careful selection of recipient farmers, training for the new owner to train his/her dog for a successful guarding career.

Later we will continue to the Waterberg Plateau. The Waterberg is a sandstone mountain which rises over 200m from the surrounding plains and is Namibia’s only mountain game park. There are various trails to walk along searching for the elusive Damara Dik-Dik and a good variety of birds. 

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2,322 km (1,443 miles) traveled
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photo by: rvanolderen