The Zoological Society of New Jersey at Essex County Turtle Back Zoo proudly contributes to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (“CCF”) via donations in support of the CCF’s efforts to protect wild cheetah populations. This summer, the Society’s Executive Director, Adam Kerins, was selected to participate in a research trip through his graduate program at Miami University of Ohio. During the two-week program duration, he alternated time between the CCF’s grounds in Namibia and Namibia’s Etosha National Park.
While at the CCF, Adam learned about the many projects CCF conducts to improve the lives of wild cheetah populations. He was able to meet several livestock guarding dogs, which are paired with local farmers as a means to combat retaliation hunting against natural predators such as cheetahs. In 2021, the CCF research showed that farmers paired with a livestock guarding dog reported “a drop in predation rates ranging over 80%”, resulting in less pressure to retaliate against cheetahs. It also allows for a larger survival rate of their livestock, creating less of a risk to their income and business – since the dogs bark loudly at any cheetahs or other predators, scaring them away, the farmers no longer feel the need to eliminate the cheetahs in order to protect their livestock and livelihood. Local communities are further supported by the introduction of ecotourism and recreational travel to the area, creating new industries and sources of income, as well as opportunities to be involved with conservation efforts.
Adam was able to actively partake in a research study monitoring wildlife populations frequents local waterholes and roadways. Specifically, his group was looking at the presence of prey available, and how it relates to a recent spike in the presence of leopards in the area. The group’s findings were added to the CCF’s collection of population information going back 30 years. By tracking populations over a long span of time, the CCF is able to identify individual visual and genetic traits, and track patterns across decades, in order to better identify significant changes in wild populations. Although the focus of this research trip was on the wild cheetah population, Adam also had the opportunity to observe multiple other species native to the area, including giraffes, zebras, jackals, rhinos, and elephants.
This trip gave Adam new insight into conservation and the importance of involving local communities in endeavors to achieve long-lasting change. The ways in which the CCF addresses threats towards endangered species, while at the same time continuing to value the input of the residents of the area, showcases a profound understanding of the value and necessity of building on a strong and united foundation. By discussing root issues and then determining and implementing unique solutions, such as the Livestock Guarding Dogs program, the CCF is able to build connections and heal the human-animal conflict in the area.
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CCF Conservation. (2021, October 29). Retrieved from cheetah.org: https://cheetah.org/resource-library/ccf-conservation/
Scientific Research on Cheetahs. (2022). Retrieved from Cheetah Conservation Fund: https://cheetah.org/about/what-we-do/research