Conserving the world’s fastest cat

Cheetah
Cheetah

Founded in Namibia in 1990, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and member of NACSO, is the global leader in research and conservation of cheetahs. CCF is dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild.

The vast majority of wild cheetahs are outside protected areas, in areas populated by humans. Saving this magnificent animal from extinction requires innovative conservation methods that address the welfare of both cheetah and human populations over large landscapes. CCF has developed a set of integrated programs that work together to achieve this objective. The programs have effectively stabilized and even increased the wild cheetah population in Namibia.

The overall objective of CCF’s work in the Otozondjupa communal conservancies is to contribute to alleviating poverty through multiple streams including livestock husbandry, veterinary services, and reduction in human-carnivore conflict. Approximately 23,000 people live and work across the four communal conservancies. Raising livestock, especially cattle, is the main income stream. However, this has come at a price to the local wild game species and carnivores of the area. The numbers of herbivore species across the four communal areas have been decimated, leading to a rapid decline of a prey base for carnivores. Livestock predation has led to the current high levels of human-carnivore conflict. 

In 2015, CCF acquired a three-year grant from the Nedbank Go Green Fund. The Go Green Fund was established in 2001 in collaboration with the Namibia Nature Foundation to support conservation projects in Namibia. This grant has provided the means for CCF to conduct an intense study in the Otjozondjupa area around the Waterberg Plateau Park and in the eastern communal conservancies, known as the Greater Waterberg Landscape (GWL).  CCF’s project has been to determine the density and human-carnivore conflict areas for cheetah and other key large carnivores across the Greater Waterberg Landscape where the current distribution and densities of key carnivore species including the African wild dog and cheetah in this area is unknown. However, previous studies have shown that high level of retaliation killing of carnivores due to livestock loss is occurring across the GWL.

Focusing now in its last quarter of the Go Green project, CCF is working in the Otjituuo, Okamatapati, African Wild Dog and Ozonahi conservancies.  Currently, CCF’s Ecologist, Willem Briers-Louw and CCFs Community Development Manager, Nadja le Roux have been collecting initial baseline data to feed into a more comprehensive study and work plan for the area. CCF has deployed camera traps in 105 sites to determine wildlife presence and densities across these communal conservancies. Along with the camera traps CCF has been conducting village-by-village surveys to collect local knowledge on wildlife presence and conflict as well as farming practices and management. In addition to verifying carnivore presence the projects aims to go further by quantifying the level and spatial distribution of human-carnivore conflict that is taking place in the communal conservancies and by mapping these conflict zones, resources can then be targeted to these key areas through education of mitigation methods, which in turn reduces the level of human-carnivore conflict in this area, to secure the future of large carnivores across the GWL. 

It has become evident that the status of a population of the critically endangered African wild dogs (AWD) is under threat of being decimated in this region. With less than 200 individuals in Namibia, and only an estimated 4 500 worldwide, CCF has identified that the situation for these critically endangered carnivores needs to be further studied and a management plan be developed to assist communities in mitigating and reducing the HWC in the area from AWD’s.  This in turn will help protect this vital population of AWD’s that have been denning in the area for years, but with high mortality rates and high persecution. It has been recorded that in 2017 there was no successful denning for the AWD’s, with dens being disturbed.

CCF strives to improve the situation and assist farmers and communities through its holistic approach in integrated livestock management tools and techniques to recover a healthier ecosystem and promote healthy biodiversity in the region.

Nadja le Roux
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