By Emily Wood and Annie Beckhelling
In the last century the perception of the cheetah has changed. Seemingly overnight, it went from being a symbol of royalty to pest, and its numbers have declined by 90 percent. The cheetah was added to the IUCN list of endangered animals in 2008. Now living exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa, there are fewer than 10,000 free-ranging cheetahs today.
The cheetah's demise is attributed to over-hunting, predator control, loss of habitat, and poor survival rate of cubs. In response to predictions of cheetah extinction, cheetah conservation programs emerged to help nurture cheetahs and raise public awareness. A few groups began looking at the way farmers think about predators.
In 2005, Cheetah Outreach launched a trial livestock guarding dog program. The concept is simple: Anatolian Shepard puppies are placed as livestock guarding dogs in South Africa's cheetah range. The dogs, once bonded with their herds, scare predators away. By protecting livestock, Cheetah Outreach is forcing cheetahs to feed on their natural prey. In exchange, farmers agree to stop lethal predator control.
By the employment of dogs, farmers and conservationists are reducing both livestock lost to predation and cheetahs lost to predator control. Once again, humans are coexisting with the cheetah.
AUTHORS: Emily Wood is a freelance journalist and PERC associate who accidently discovered Anatolian Shepherds during a recent stint in South Africa.
Annie Beckhelling is the founder and director of Cheetah Outreach. For more information visit Cheetah Outreach at www.cheetah.co.za.