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Cheetah's 'conserved' by dogs

By JW Dowey - 29 Aug 2013 13:28:0 GMT
Cheetah's 'conserved' by dogs

This Tanzanian cheetah has few of the worries that Namibian animals had when farmers started shooting them as goat-killers. Twins are quite common among cheetahs and brothers can often hunt together when they are older; Cheetah cubs image; Credit: © Shutterstock

The Livestock Guarding Program is an inspired success for the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. One Anatolian Shepherd sheepdog was found in 1980 to be able to defend goat herds by successfully fending off attack from both cheetah and jackal. The 1980s drought forced cheetah to abandon their natural prey and take a few livestock. This forced farmers to consider them as their enemies and many were shot.

There are only 10,000 cheetahs, Acinonyx jubatus in the world and some populations are short of breeding stock, limiting their gene pool. Crisis is never far away, so it was a relief to find that after this dog was able, at zero cost in man-hours or money, to liberate goats from predation, the CCF, based in Otjiwarono, took over this whole project! 150 dogs are currently on guard duty around Namibian farms, beginning duties at the age of 7 or 8 weeks, so that the bond with their goats is complete.

The latest news concerns some Kurdish Kangal puppies from 2008, that are now successfully blending into the goating community. Again from Turkey, they have shorter hair, they withstand heat better. It costs $40,000 a year to look after and breed these dogs, with more than 150 taking over duties. They are all documented at Otjiwarono.

It's not so easy on the dogs, or the cheetahs. One sick cheetah was killed trying to attack goats and the dogs are involved with fights against jackals and other animals. The end result is that more than 60 goats are saved each year, often from jackal attacks. There are rarely any predations when the dog guardians are present.

They are acclimatised to a goat herd from puppyhood, and organise the guard themselves with no human help for miles. Barking and "posturing" are often enough to put off the aggressor. Humans can arrive when the barking starts but these gentle giants are enough to handle almost all situations with their personal herd.

You can read about CCF in The Livestock Guarding Dog Program.