My endangered wildlife paintings are included in a special category to provide updated information about the protective support that is currently underway by major wildlife conservation partners.
The information below is from the official website of WCN wildnet.org (Wildlife Conservation Network) and CCF cheetah.org (Cheetah Conservation Fund) who are protecting endangered wildlife. (Please see Artist’s Disclaimer at bottom.)
Cheetah Markings. Cheetah cubs are born with all the spots they’ll ever have, but when they’re tiny those spots are very close together making their fur a darker, ash gray color. Cheetah cubs have a thick silvery-grey mantle down their back that helps camouflage the cubs by imitating the look of an aggressive animal called a honey badger. This mimicry may help deter predators such as lions, hyenas, and eagles from attempting to kill them. Cubs lose their mantle at about three months of age.
Adult cheetahs have undercoats ranging in color from light tan to a deep gold marked by solid black spots. These spots are not open like the rosettes found on a leopard or jaguar’s coat, which is one way to quickly identify the cheetah.
Distinctive black tear stripes run from the eyes to the mouth. The stripes are thought to protect the eyes from the sun’s glare. It is believed that they have the same function as a rifle scope, helping cheetahs focus on their prey from a long distance by minimizing the glare of the sun.
Cheetahs are famous for their speed and agility but are also one of Africa’s most endangered big cats. Their numbers have declined by 90% over the past 100 years, dropping from 100,000 to less than 10,000 today. The main reasons for the decline are human-wildlife conflict, disappearing habitat, and loss of prey.
At WCN (wildnet.org) we find the best of these “conservation entrepreneurs” and, after a rigorous vetting process, invite a select few to receive in-depth, ongoing support by joining our Network of Conservation Partners.
Founded in 1990, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF cheetah.org) is dedicated to saving the cheetah. CCF works internationally and maintains a field base in Namibia, the country with the largest population of wild cheetah. Employing a holistic approach that balances the needs of people, wildlife, and land, CCF’s success has inspired a nation that once viewed this species as vermin to proudly claim the title, “Cheetah Capital of the World.” Since CCF was founded, Namibia’s cheetah population has increased by 1,000.
CCF’s work with conflict mitigation, and their education and outreach programs are being replicated in other cheetah-range nations and serve as a model for carnivore conservation programs around the world. CCF’s Field Research and Education Centre in Otjiwarongo is open to the public 364 days a year. Visitors can interact with CCF scientists and learn about CCF’s livestock guarding dogs, model farm, and wildlife conservancy. Overnight guests may opt to spend a few days at CCF’s Cheetah View Lodge for an immersive cheetah experience.
Human-Wildlife Conflict. Unlike other large cats and pack predators, cheetahs do not do well in wildlife reserves. These areas normally contain high densities of other larger predators like the lion, leopard, and hyena. Predators such as these, compete with cheetahs for prey and will even kill cheetahs given the opportunity. In such areas, the cheetah cub mortality can be as high as 90%. Therefore, roughly 90% of cheetahs in Africa live outside of protected lands on private farmlands and thus often come into conflict with people.
When a predator threatens a farmer’s livestock, they also threaten the farmer’s livelihood. Farmers act quickly to protect their resources, often trapping or shooting the cheetah. Because cheetahs hunt more during the day, they are seen more often than the nocturnal predators which contributes to a higher rate of persecution on the cheetah.
Habitat Loss. Cheetahs require vast expanses of land with suitable prey, water, and cover sources to survive. As wild lands are destroyed and fragmented by the human expansion occurring all over the world, the cheetah’s available habitat is also destroyed. Available habitat is fragmented, and degraded reducing the number of animals an area can support. Numerous landscapes across Africa that could once support thousands of cheetahs now struggle to support just a handful.
Illegal Wildlife Trade. In many parts of the world there are strong cultural associations to keeping cheetahs as companions. There is a long history of the practice and it is commonly seen in ancient art.
In contemporary times, cheetahs are still viewed as status symbols. Though cheetah ownership and exotic pet ownership has been outlawed in many countries, there is still a high demand for cheetahs as pets. Cubs are illegally captured from the wild and only one in six survives the journey to a potential buyer.
Celebrating 25+ years. Over twenty-five years ago, Dr. Laurie Marker started Cheetah Conservation Fund to save the cheetah in Namibia, one of its most important habitats. Since its beginnings as a humble research post, the CCF has grown tremendously and become a real presence on the world conservation stage.
When CCF began tracking cheetahs in 1992, team members used Very High Frequency (VHF) collars. These collars are still widely used and affordable, but they required CCF team members to use a plane for spotting and tracking the cheetahs. Cheetahs could only be tracked for three or four hour stretches, as the plane required frequent refueling, and the wind made for difficult flying. New collars are a significant upgrade—they use GPS technology to send information straight to CCF computers, where information can be downloaded and cheetahs can be tracked on foot. While satellite collars are expensive, it’s no more so than flying and maintaining a plane.
CCF has now captured more than 600 cheetahs, outfitting them with under-the-skin transponders and ear tags, and collared an additional eighty animals. The information this tracking provided has helped to strengthen cheetah conservation and establish predator control methods in conjunction with local farmers and villages. This has contributed to the doubling Namibia’s of cheetah population, making it the cheetah capital of the world.
Although CCF began as a research group, Dr. Marker and her team knew from the beginning that people were an essential part of conservation. CCF has run a 16-year Livestock Guarding Dog Program. Livestock is protected with Kangal dogs and Anatolian shepherds, breeds that have been used as livestock guardians against bears and wolves in Turkey for centuries. Puppies placed with farmers in the area are highly effective, curtailing livestock loss by up to 80 percent. The dogs are so popular that there is now a two-year waiting list now in place for puppies. With less livestock lost, attitudes towards predators like cheetahs are changing, a significant step forward in a region where predators had traditionally been seen as the enemy.
Title: Those Cheetah Eyes
Reference photo for this artwork is from WCN/CCF.