Cheetah conservationists celebrate quarter century of protecting predators by protecting livestock
Since the Cheetah Conservation Fund started its livestock guard dog programme 25 years ago, it has placed 634 dogs with commercial farmers, in the process reducing stock losses significantly for at least 91% of the farmers who made use of the dogs.
These findings were published earlier this month by the fund’s research team in an online academic publication, the Journal of Vertebrate Biology.
The study collated data collected over two-and-a-half decades to draw conclusions on the impact of this popular, non-lethal predator control tool for small stock farmers. This research represents the most extensive collection and longest reaching data set in Africa on the use of guard dogs to protect livestock.
“Cheetahs hunt by day and exist mainly on open farmland so they are at a greater risk for conflict with livestock farmers than other large carnivores. With fewer than 7500 wild cheetahs remaining and with Namibia’s tourism industry dependent on having healthy populations, we are ‘The Cheetah Capital of the World.” Helping farmers develop non-lethal approaches to control predation is critical”, said Dr Laurie Marker, the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s founder and Executive Director.
“The CCF Livestock Guarding Dog programme was born from the need to reduce losses and facilitate coexistence. This has been central to CCF’s work from the beginning,” she emphasised.
For 25 years the fund has been breeding, training and placing guard dogs with Namibian farmers at a minimal charge. The fund works with farmers throughout the dog’s career, doing regular health check-ups and retraining or rehoming dogs when necessary.
The breeds used in the programme are rare Turkish dogs known as Anatolian shepherds and Kangal dogs, distinguished by their large size, loud bark, and fiercely protective nature. Raised at the fund’s headquarters with goats and sheep, the dogs bond with the small stock they are engaged to protect.
Since 1994, the Cheetah Conservation Fund has helped launch similar guard dog programmes at cheetah-predator projects in South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania. The logic is simple: if the dog can prevent a cheetah from killing livestock, the chances are much slimmer that the cheetah will be killed by the farmer.
The authors of Twenty-five years of Livestock Guarding Dog use across Namibian farmlands are Laurie Marker, Lauren Pfeiffer, Annetjie Siyaya, Paige Seitz, Gebhardt Nikanor, Bridget Fry, Calum O’Flaherty, and Stijn Verschueren. All authors are affiliated with the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
An interview with Dr Marker on the conservation benefits of guard dogs can be watched at https://youtu.be/_8OsuyEXXr8