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Thursday, 30 June 2011

International conservationists' intensive training at CCF.

For the past three weeks, CCF has been hosting the 6th International Cheetah Conservation Biology Training Course. The objective of these courses is to train conservation biologists from the cheetah’s range countries in proven methods of cheetah conservation, so that they can become trainers of these methods in their respective home countries. In this course we have 26 participants from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia, Niger, Iran, Uzbekistan and India, as well as large cat experts from Brazil, and the UK.

International course participants with Laurie and Bruce, CCF USA Trustee Polly Hix and her husband Tony Fair. (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund, 2011.
So far the participants have spent much of their time learning from lectures by CCF staff as well as guest speakers from Namibian conservation and research organisations, university lecturers from the United States and specialists from Botswana. Lectures have addressed a variety of topics including, large-scale conservation, range land management, cheetah behaviour, husbandry and feeding ecology, habitat studies, management plans, rapid sociological studies and human-wildlife conflict. The group has also been involved in practical sessions, learning skills such as radio-tracking, vegetation surveys, diet analysis using hair from scat samples, cheetah immobilisations and collecting biological samples.

Hands-on learning with a cheetah immobilisation in the clinic. (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund, 2011
Last week the course travelled to the Sesfontein Conservancy in Namibia’s North-West. Here they put some of their new skills into practice by conducting a rapid survey of the area including game counts, habitat description and a sociological survey focusing on human-wildlife conflict as well as conducting training for the community members to help them deal with predator problems in their conservancy.

Kat Forsythe

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Coughing Cheetahs

Several of our cheetah have developed a dry cough. It appears to be either viral or bacterial in nature, as several cats living together all have contracted it. We have them on supportive antibiotics and are keeping a very close eye on them. Currently, none of them are critical and we think that our careful observations will alert us to any major problems. Another of our cheetahs it appears has been stung by a bee and we administered anti-inflammatory and supportive antibiotic, the swelling has gone down.

Our OK cubs have also been a bit off, and we are monitoring them also very carefully. So, it has been quite busy the last few days.


Thursday, 9 June 2011

More farmers learn about co-existing with cheetah and other predators.

CCF was recently invited to give a talk to the Duineveld Farmers’ Association meeting in western Namibia near the town of Khorixas. The communal farmers were gathering on this day to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of their association, thus a commercial farmer in the area decided that it was a good opportunity for CCF to give a talk to these farmers. The farmers that are part of this association are furthermore involved in the communal conservancy known as Sorris Sorris.

The main idea of the talk was to address the conflict between these farmers and the predators in the area that occasionally kill their livestock. As part of the Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme in Namibia, the establishment of Sorris Sorris Conservancy has led to increasing numbers of wildlife in the area. With this increase in game populations and the extra protection provided to predators, the predator numbers in this area have increased substantially. Due to the increase in predators, especially cheetahs, spotted hyaenas and lions, the conflict between the farmers and predators has intensified within the conservancy.

The commercial farmer that invited CCF is concerned about the livelihoods of the community and the intensification of conflict with predators. He recognised the need to train the community to look after their livestock and thus protect them and the predators from the consequences of conflict. He therefore contacted CCF and requested that we attend the farmers’ association meeting to talk about predator conflict and improvements in livestock management.

The community welcomed me to their meeting and provided ample time to talk about their livestock losses. The meeting went exceptionally well, with input from the men and women present – they were interested in learning about the predators and expressed their needs and concerns openly. We discussed the importance of predators in the ecosystem, the use of the conservancy framework to manage human-wildlife conflict and livestock management tools such as confining livestock at night, using human shepherds and livestock guarding dogs.

Once the presentation was completed, I led them through our livestock kill identification demonstration – a technique that CCF has used for several years to educate farmers. This demonstration involves the use of model goats that have been ‘killed’ by different types of predators that leave different signs on and around the carcass. The farmers can then use this knowledge to identify the type of predator responsible for their losses and implement better management practices to guard against these predators. The photograph below shows the group of farmers with the model goats used in this exercise.

The farmers were grateful for the time that CCF spent with them and expressed the need for more training days such as this one. Plans with other Namibian NGOs have since been made to bring more training courses to these farmers in the near future. Conservancies in Namibia are an example of local communities actively involved in conserving biodiversity – something that is rarely found in other parts of the world.

Supporting these people in their endeavour to live in harmony with wildlife is therefore among CCF’s main priorities.

Gail Potgieter

PS - Please support this and other CCF programmes by participating in this year's Chewbaaka Memorial Challenge --our most ambitious to date. Every donation through 31 August, up to US$300,000, will be doubled thanks to a select group of donors. Please help us honour Chewbaaka's legacy by making a donation here.