Cheetah Conservation Fund Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of its Livestock Guarding Dog Program

Guest blog by CCF staff

2019 is the Year of the Livestock Guarding Dog

Over the past 25 years, the puppies raised on the Model Farm at Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) have become the Namibian small stock farmer’s best employees. They are also CCF’s most vital, ‘paws on the ground’ partner in cheetah conservation. Looking at the tiny newborn puppies, you may not see the traits that make them ideal Livestock Guarding Dogs (LGDs). When they grow up they will develop an imposing physical presence, fierce bark, and a loyal, protective nature. As trained adult LGDs they will function as a buffer between small stock like goats and sheep and the wildlife that live alongside rural farmland. Simply by traveling with livestock herds as they graze, LGDs act as deterrents to predation. In Namibia, they have reduced the livestock loss of the farmers from 70 to 100%, reducing the needs of the farmers to kill cheetah and other predators.

Since the program began in 1994, CCF has trained and placed over 650 Livestock Guarding Dogs in Namibia, South Africa, and Tanzania. The dogs even guarded the goats belonging to Namibia’s Founding President, Dr.Sam Nujoma, and were placed at two of Namibia’s agricultural colleges so students could learn more about predator-friendly farming techniques. Farmers who participate in the LGD program and the professional development training offered at CCF’s Model Farm, report a70-100% reduction in livestock losses. While the dogs were initially intended to protect livestock from cheetahs, CCF’s researchers found that they are equally effective in guarding against other predators like jackals and caracals. Protecting predators helps conserve the delicate balance of the ecosystems that animals and humans depend upon.

When CCF’s Founder and Executive Director Dr. Laurie Marker first arrived in Namibia in 1977, farmers were killing cheetahs at an alarming rate. Several years later when she moved to Namibia and setup CCF, she quickly realized that CCF’s first-priority would be to address the concerns of the rural community living alongside predators. Within the first few weeks of arriving in Namibia, Dr. Marker delivered the first farmer education courses next to her truck, out in the field. In the years since, CCF’s educators have developed a suite of educational materials and coursework for all ages that focuses on the important role that predators play in the ecosystem. Due to CCF’s educational outreach programs, attitudes toward cheetahs have shifted dramatically and Namibia is now known as The Cheetah Capital of the World.

In the 25 years since the Livestock Guarding Dog Program began it has become so well known among the farming community that CCF has a waiting list for dog placement. To meet demand, the LGD breeding program is growing thanks to the support of dedicated donors. CCF’s goal is to serve all farmers currently on the waiting list and carefully expand the program across the cheetahs’ range in Africa. To learn more about CCF’s research, education and conservation programs including the Livestock Guarding Dog program visit: www.cheetah.org. Follow the cheetahs on social media @ccfcheetah and help CCF #SaveTheCheetah in the wild.

LGD Program Highlights:

• CCF has helped launch livestock guarding dog programs with its sister conservation organizations in Botswana (Cheetah Conservation Botswana); in South Africa (Cheetah Outreach); and in Tanzania (Ruaha Carnivore Project).
• Farmers experiencing problems with predation can reach out directly. To make it easier to get help, CCF manages a Farmer Carnivore Help Hotline with printed posters distributed to community centers and local government offices.
• The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is a supporter of the CCF Livestock Guarding Dog Program. TIKA donated a 4×4 truck to serve as a puppy delivery wagon and later covered the cost to build a new dog pen in the goat yard.
• His Excellency, Dr. Sam Nujoma, Namibia’s Founding President and CCF’s first International Patron, was also one of the first farmers use CCF Livestock Guarding Dogs. He employed two to protect the goat herds on his farmlands.
• Ambassador, Professor Peter Katjuvivi, Namibia’s Speaker of the House and CCF’s current International Patron, has had CCF LGDs for over 20 years!

Attendees at this year’s Running Wild race will have the chance to meet Anatolian Livestock Guard Dog Ambassadors Mielle and Odin who will be joining us on race day! These highly trained k-9 ambassadors are an important part of the work that Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) performs, and your participation in Running Wild helps to fund their programs!