If she can goof around with large cats, small kittens pose no threat
Founder and Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), Dr Laurie Marker became an honorary lifetime members of the Girl Scouts last week when a group of Scouts visiting from the United States was so enamoured by this quintessential outdoors woman, they simply had to pull her into their ranks.
The Scouts presented her with a pin at a special parting ceremony to denote her new status, adding to the gallery of accolades the conservator has collected over the past 25 years.
The Scouts were part of a group comprising eleven Scouts from the US and three Girl Guides from South Africa, all in their high school years. Their visit to the CCF was motivated by a deep interest to learn about cheetah conservation, protection and advocacy. The visit was the second leg of a two-part, two-nation, immersive conservation learning experience, “Voice of the Cheetah”, that began in Washington, D.C. last year.
The group spent ten days in Namibia visiting Cape Cross, Namib Naukluft National Park and Etosha National Park before moving to the CCF. The group was led by Lesley Robinson, Vice President of Girl Leadership Experience at the Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina.
At the Fund’s cheetah sanctuary in the Otjiwarongo district, the group spent three days taking part in conservation activities, beginning with tours of the Cheetah Museum and Education Centre before moving to the livestock guard dog breeding programme and Model Farm operations. Staff scientists explained cheetah genetic challenges at its Applied Biosystems Conservation Genetics Laboratory followed by a visit to the veterinary clinic for a presentation on cheetah health. On their third day, they were treated to a Scat Dog demonstration and two safari drives. Over the course of their time at the CCF, the girls took part in nature hikes, cheetah feeding and exercise activities, learning how CCF scientists use satellite tracking, camera traps and other technology as tools in their ecology research.
“It has been a true pleasure to work with this group of thoughtful, intelligent and fully-engaged young learners over the past two years” said Dr Marker. “This two-nation learning experience was a first-of-its-kind for both the Girl Scouts and myself, and I think it was very successful. Most exciting for me, among these girls are our next generation of educators, scientists, conservationists and political leaders. They represent the cheetah’s best hope for a long-term future on this planet.”