One of the biggest threats to the wild cheetah population is retaliatory hunting by farmers across the cheetah range. Farmers have to work unbelievably hard to forge a living by rearing livestock and they end up regularly doing battle with wild predators that take their domestic animals. Many top predators see these unprotected farms as easy pickings and come back for more time and again.
Sadly, cheetahs get more than their fair share of the blame because, unlike most other carnivores, they hunt during the day and so are easily seen. Farmers are desperate to protect their precious livestock and so cheetahs are killed in misguided retaliation. Added to this, the methods used – trapping, poisoning and hunting – are all indiscriminate and kill or damage bat-eared foxes, aardvarks, raptors and other wildlife too. None of which helps to control livestock loss and both farmers and wildlife suffer. We are determined to stop this pointless waste of life.
PTES is funding innovative work by Cheetah Outreach to help farmers protect their livestock and reduce the retaliatory killings. Traditional non-lethal methods of herd protection used in Europe are being adapted to work for cheetahs in Africa. The concept is quite simple. Each herd is protected by a guardian dog which wards off any predators before they attack. It’s a wonderfully simple solution but it has to be carefully managed.
Anatolian shepherd dogs were chosen for this project as this breed has been successfully used in Turkey to protect sheep and goats against wolf and bear attacks for thousands of years. As puppies, the dogs are placed with a herd so that they develop a strong protective affinity for the livestock ‘family’ as they grow up. The dogs need to be specially trained so as not to worry the livestock but protect them from predators by barking to scare them, and this can take time. The greatest challenge is convincing farmers that non-lethal methods work. This is especially difficult at the outset when the farmers have not heard of other’s positive experiences.
The project is going from strength to strength. Lessons are being learned. Experience and trust are building well and, most importantly, it works. Cheetahs are kept at a safe distance and concentrate on wild prey unhindered.
Word is spreading among the local people but there are still many farmers without guard dogs. We urgently need to place a puppy on as many farms as possible. This takes time and money and we need your help. Please donate today and save the life of a cheetah in South Africa.