A Local Zoo’s Global Impact
Cheetah Conservation Fund
Photo Credit: Bobby Bradley / Cheetah Conservation Fund
For Dr. Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), what began with a Land Rover and a dream has now become a global leader in the research and conservation of Africa’s famed fast cat.
CCF’s wide array of programs are effectively stabilizing and increasing the wild cheetah population in Namibia, focusing on research, education and land use to benefit all species, including people.
Together with the Tony Stewart Foundation, the Indianapolis Zoo has supported CCF for many years, providing monetary support through a unique Zoo guest experience known as Race-a-Cheetah. This fun interactive challenges guests to beat the speed of a cheetah – the world’s fastest land animal and Africa’s most endangered cat. For 50 cents, guests enter the track and try to outrun the 60 miles per hour light array that duplicates a cheetah’s speed. Set in the Plains area of the Zoo, families can clock their speed and then visit the resident cheetahs in the same outdoor space, catch a cheetah chat, or find out how the Zoo’s ambassador Kangal dogs are helping farmers and cheetahs share the same land in Africa.
Open since 2010, Race-a-Cheetah has raised more than $90,000 for CCF, and continues to be a landmark attraction for Zoo guests every year.
Those funds directly impact CCF efforts including providing livestock guarding dogs for Namibian farmers as an effective form of predator control; holding outreach programs across schools, youth centers and regional institutes; and successfully returning cats to the wild.
Livestock Guarding Dogs
Photo Credit: Cheetah Conservation Fund.
In 2017, 48 livestock guarding dog puppies were born at CCF and 47 were placed with Namibian farmers, bringing the total number of dogs placed in the field to almost 700 since the program began in 1994. CCF’s Livestock Guarding Dogs are the single most-effective, non-lethal predator control tool available to farmers. These specially bred and trained dogs guard small stock animals -- acting as a buffer between herds and predators -- and are credited with sparing hundreds of cheetah lives.
Education & Training
Returning Cheetahs to the Wild
In 2017, CCF continued its 10-year study into the re-wilding of cheetahs, successfully returning four individuals to the wild. A cub born to a cheetah returned in 2015 gave birth to her own litter, a key indicator of long-term program success. CCF maintains satellite tracking collars on adolescent and adult cats and continues to monitor health and progress of individuals in the study.
The Indianapolis Zoo and its support of CCF prove that anyone anywhere can have a positive effect on animal and habitat conservation efforts. Visit the Indianapolis Zoo and lend your hand to its conservation efforts. Can you outrun a cheetah?
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