Namibia: gala for the cheetah

This video is called This is Why You Can’t Outrun a Cheetah.

From the Namibia Economist:

August 4, 2006


The 7th annual gala dinner and silent auction, A Celebration of Speed and Elegance, in support of the Cheetah Conservation Fund‘s efforts to ensure the survival of Namibia’s cheetahs, was held at the Windhoek Country Club last week.

This year’s gala dinner celebrated the cheetah, The Spirit of the Savannah, and was attended by over 320 guests.

The master of ceremonies, Uda Nakamhela, welcomed guests including government ministers, representatives from international and national businesses, as well as the Namibian farming community.

Namibia‘s Founding President and Cheetah Conservation Fund’s International Patron, Dr. Sam Nujoma presented the opening address, which spoke about Namibia being the cheetah capital of the world and reminded all Namibians of their responsibilities in safeguarding the planet.

More Cheetah Conservation Fund: here.

Cheetahs collared in Iran: here.

14 thoughts on “Namibia: gala for the cheetah

  1. Namibia: Vultures ‘Dying Out’

    The Namibian (Windhoek)

    December 14, 2006
    Posted to the web December 14, 2006

    Elma Robberts

    NAMIBIA, renowned for its natural beauty and unique variety of fauna and flora, is on the verge of losing several bird species unless people urgently adopt a more positive role in managing the environment.

    A recent trip with the Vultures Namibia Study Group into the Namib-Naukluft Park (NNP) produced irrefutable proof that extinction is looming for several species of the country’s big birds.

    Seven of the world’s 22 vulture species are found in Namibia.

    The future of all seven local species is threatened and immediate efforts to preserve their dwindling populations are crucial.

    The monitoring and ringing of lappet-faced vultures – Africa’s largest vulture – by Vultures Namibia in the NNP is the longest running project of its kind in the country.

    “It is providing an increasing amount of data, which can be used for wildlife management planning by ornithologists and biodiversity researchers,” explained Peter Bridgeford, co-ordinator of the Vulture Study Group.

    After its inception in 1991, investigated areas were limited due to vast distances between known breeding zones.

    Since 2000, an aircraft is being used during the breeding season to conduct an aerial survey during which the exact locations of occupied nests are recorded on GPS.

    Adult birds, chicks and even eggs can be spotted from the air.

    “However, it is impossible to differentiate between birds roosting on nests and breeding birds,” said Bridgeford.

    About a month later, the team returns to the marked locations to measure and ring chicks that have hatched and monitor the growth of previously tagged birds.

    “This is certainly not a good year for the vulture,” Bridgeford summarised the findings of the 2006 survey, “with only 22 chicks ringed.”

    The Tsauchab River, ending at Sossusvlei, has shown the biggest decline over the past years, with no breeding birds found for three years now.

    Ten chicks were ringed there in 1996.

    Bridgeford ascribed the demise of the breeding colony to increasing tourist vehicles and pleasure flights in the vicinity.

    Numbers in the Sukses/Tsamvlei and Saagberg/Kamberg areas are down as well and in the Ganab area 14 breeding birds were counted this year compared to the 40 found in 2004.

    The fact that more birds were ringed on the Tsondab plains, a vast area with only a few scattered trees, than in the Tsondab River and Vlei where the habitat is ideal for breeding, indicates that disturbance by aircraft could be to blame.

    “Planes on sightseeing trips do not fly over the flat, uninteresting plains, but over the vlei and along the river,” Bridgeford explained.

    Since 2004, when 52 lappet-faced vulture chicks were ringed in the NNP, numbers have declined rapidly and this year only 22 were ringed.

    In the past, birds have been marked with a numbered metal ring and five coloured plastic rings.

    Because it was difficult to observe birds marked in this way and very few sightings were reported, it was decided to use patagial tags.

    These are numbered, coloured plastic tags fitted to the wing of the bird once it reaches a certain size.

    FARMERS Vultures and other scavengers are one of the most persecuted groups of animal.

    Their survival depends largely on farm management techniques aimed at their protection.

    Indiscriminate and irresponsible use of poison and chemicals on farms is the single biggest threat to their existence.

    Ten years ago, one farmer in the NNP annihilated ten per cent of the country’s lappet-faced vulture population through a single poisoned carcass, according to information by the Vulture Study Group.

    Poison also wiped out the entire Cape griffon breeding colonies consisting of thousands of birds.

    Today, a small population at Waterberg is all that remains in Namibia.

    Aside from being illegal, the poisoning of carcasses often kills animals other than the targeted predator.

    The study group reasons that successful farm management is not measured by the number of predators that are killed, but by minimising conflicts between predators and farm animals.

    Vulture populations are also threatened by drowning in open water reservoirs, electrocution when they fly into power lines, water pollution, disturbance of their nests and the destruction of their natural habitat through bush encroachment and desertification.

    When a vulture is seen feeding on a carcass, it is often assumed that the bird killed the animal.

    But vultures are scavengers and not adapted for killing: they are extremely cautious and have weak claws.

    A bird of prey perched near an ewe that’s giving birth also doesn’t mean the bird is about to kill the newborn.

    In most, if not all, cases, the bird is waiting to feed on the afterbirth.


    As carnivores, vultures claim top position in the food chain and their presence is indicative of a healthy environment.

    Vultures are scavengers that search for food from the sky.

    Exceptional vision allows them to spot a carcass from thousands of metres away.

    Vultures are considered to be the cleaners of the environment.

    They prevent outbreaks of diseases like anthrax and blowfly epidemics because they consume carcasses before they become breeding sites for flies or anthrax spores have time to develop.


  2. Namibia: Wildlife Society Reinvents Itself

    The Namibian (Windhoek)

    22 May 2007
    Posted to the web 22 May 2007

    Absalom Shigwedha

    A RENAMED Namibian environmental organisation says apathy and a lack of awareness are amongst the biggest current environmental problems.

    Therefore, says the Namibian Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) – formerly known as the Namibia Wildlife Society – it will work hard to promote and support environmental research and education.

    Newly appointed part-time Director Helge Denker told The Namibian that global warming, sustainable utilisation of all natural resources, sustainable water use and poverty alleviation are some of the main issues that NEWS is concerned about.

    Others are loss of habitat and species and the protection of Mother Nature.

    “NEWS does not intend to be controversial or slow down or hamper development.

    NEWS seeks positive dialogue and constructive co-operation with all environmental stakeholders,” said Denker.

    Through its publications and public talks, NEWS creates an environmental forum.

    Its environmental magazine, Roan News, features a wide variety of illustrated articles on current affairs, research findings, conservation projects and general natural history, providing a good overview of pertinent environmental issues.
    Relevant Links

    Last year, NEWS celebrated it’s 40th anniversary, where the society also looked at its future direction, which resulted in the renaming of the organisation.

    It is a membership organisation and its members range from individuals to educational and corporate members.

    Membership is open to anyone with an interest in the environment and the society works closely with partner organisations such as Government, NGOs and the media.


  3. Kenya: Cheetah On the Fast Track to Extinction

    East African (Nairobi)

    29 May 2007
    Posted to the web 29 May 2007

    Rupi Mangat

    THE HILLS OF SALAMA ARE COVERED IN the cool white mist of a rainy morning. The road that cuts across the landscape is busy as usual, with huge trucks ferrying goods between the port of Mombasa and the interior. Over the years, Salama has grown from a tiny roadside village into an overcrowded hub. And in the midst of this, a most amazing discovery has been made – there are cheetahs around!

    It’s not the best day for cheetah monitoring because of the rain, but in this case the cheetah in question has a radio collar fitted; once a week, the cheetah team drives through the vast lands of Salama, 120 kilometres southeast of Nairobi, to try and pick up the signals emitting from her radio collar even if they cannot spot her.

    However, on this cold Friday, our first stop after picking up Lumumba Mutiso, the community officer with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Salama, is one of the large ranches that has recently been subdivided. The ranch, measuring almost 20,000 acres, is where the cheetah population of Salama has survived until now.

    Lumumba drives a short distance from Salama shopping centre before taking the turning into the ranch. It’s a beautiful landscape of hills and valleys, now verdant with the rains. Cows, sheep and goats graze contentedly on the succulent green grass, which otherwise in this semi arid region is coarse and brown.

    This visit is, however, a tense one for the cheetah team – Mr Lumumba; Mary Wykstra, CCF’s Kenya programme officer and Wallace Isaboke from the East African Wildlife Society (EAWS) , who are collaborating with CCF.

    Two goats have been killed and one injured the previous night. The landowner, a portly businessman who bought many of the plots, is not amused. The culprit seems to be a cheetah, and at this point it is unclear whether it is the radio-collared cheetah. “Niko na bunduki ndani ya gari. Nitamuuwa leo,” he says angrily. (“I’ve got a gun here in the car with me; I’m going to kill that thieving animal today!”)

    ONE OF THE CARCASSES HAS BEEN skinned and is hanging in the enclosure. There’s no compensation from the government, in the form of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who are the custodians of the wildlife, or CCF for the livestock lost to wildlife. The landowner is within his rights to kill wildlife on his land that are proving to be pests.

    “There are an estimated 12,500 cheetahs in Africa today and 50 in Iran,” says Ms Wykstra. “In 1900, the population of cheetahs in Africa was 100,000, with cheetahs seen across Asia and Europe. Today, Iran is the only country outside Africa with a cheetah population. A count done in 2000 shows that Kenya has an estimated cheetah population of 500 to 1,000. Around Salama, there are an estimated 17 cheetahs.” The cheetah researcher, who has a degree in zoology and extensive experience studying animal behaviour and working in zoos designing animal enclosures, gives another, more depressing statistic – that of the countries where cheetahs have become extinct since 1940 – Jordan, Iraq, India (the country that gave the cat its name), Israel, Morocco, Syria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Djibouti, Ghana, Nigeria, and Khazikstan as recently as 1989.

    The cheetah is the fastest animal on earth and can achieve speeds of up to 114 kilometres per house when hunting. This cat is built for speed. Its streamlined body, lean muscular legs, a disproportionately massive chest to allow an increased intake of air and a tail that acts as a rudder to allow sharp turns at high speed make it an efficient hunter. But it is not strong. “Compared with the lion and the leopard, the cheetah is the weakest of the large cats and the poorest breeder,” continues Ms Wykstra. Even a big vulture can chase a cheetah from its kill.

    THE CHEETAH CONSERVAtion Fund was started in 1991, with Dr Laurie Marker championing the cause of the cat in Namibia in Southern Africa. The goal of CCF is to ensure the survival of the cheetah in collaboration with stakeholders. “You cannot conserve without involving the people who have to live with the predators,” explains Wykstra. “Cheetah populations have been declining everywhere. What we are trying to do is to maintain what we have left. And one way forward is co-existence with the people who live with the predators.”

    CCF made its entry into Kenya in December 2001. Working with the EAWLS and KWS, the team has travelled to the far reaches of the country to map the animals’ distribution. “What we are finding is that cheetah populations have declined, and even though they are not declining as rapidly as in the 1980s, their numbers are falling. There could be a number of reasons for that, like there not being a big market for the skins. But the number one factor is habitat loss,” says EAWLS’s Mr Isaboke. “We hope to finish the countrywide cheetah census by the end of the year,” he adds.

    This is the first comprehensive cheetah national survey done in Kenya. The results of the survey will be presented to KWS and the government. “Cheetahs need large masses of land, and therefore the issue is looking at conserving large landscapes. In Namibia, the range of the cheetah is 1,200 square kilometres in commercial farmland. In Tanzania, the data shows 750 square kilometres.

    HOWEVER, IN KENYA there has been no scientific monitoring to look at the exact home range size. The one confirmed size of a reasonably long studied cheetah is the Salama cheetah, which has a range of 200 square kilometres.”

    “We have been monitoring this surprising female cheetah in Salama in Makueni district since 2005,” says Ms Wykstra. Surprising because Makueni is one of the most populated areas in Kenya, and the landscape is hilly and bushy, not typical flat-plains cheetah country.

    “The Salama cheetah was caught in a trap after she killed a calf on a ranch,” says Ms Wykstra. By that time, she had been accused of killing about 100 goats and calves. She also had five half grown cubs with her. “The dilemma at that point was what to do with the cheetah and her cubs. One suggestion was to move her to a protected area where there aren’t many cheetahs. But we know from previous field work that that’s not a solution as cats keep to their old habits. It would have been a case of simply transferring the problem. “The next option was to fit her with a radio collar to find out to what degree she was the cause of the problem.”

    Monitoring the Salama cheetah gave interesting insights into a cheetah’s life outside a national park. “What we found was that she was not the problem cheetah, because by monitoring her we could see that at the times the kills were made, she was in another area,” says Ms Wykstra. “So it was a good thing that she was not moved or killed. When we checked her out, she had three broken teeth, which would hamper her in killing livestock, anyway.”

    Two of Salama’s five cubs were also fitted with collars. Five weeks after the male was fitted with a collar, the researchers lost his signal. Two weeks later, its carcass was found in a poacher’s snare. Its sibling died a similar death a few days later.

    In the case of the Salama cheetah, the monitoring had already proved that she was not the culprit behind the earlier killings. Now, after the new killing, we picked up her signal far from the ranch – near a booster station on a hill where a new settler was tilling his recently acquired small plot. It was fenced all around.

    The two ranches, Aimi ma Kalungu and Malili Ranch, cover more than 40,000 acres. Before the subdivision, there was little trouble as the ranches were mostly for cattle and cheetahs do not have the muscle to kill cows. “But now they are walking across the same terrain and finding sheep and goats like here.”

    MR LUMUMBA, THE Community officer, interviews the herders and the watchman to find out what happened. The workers say they saw two cats in the boma (homestead). One was dragging the goat out of the enclosure. The fence around the enclosure has several gaps, allowing predators to squeeze through.

    “Typically, cheetahs do not hunt at night. They are diurnal cats,” says Mr Lumumba. “Besides, they eat quickly at the site of the kill, unless it’s a female and her cubs are nearby. A cheetah does not have the strength to drag prey far. Cheetahs around the livestock ranches kill the weaker livestock or young ones.” The trio analyses the answers and what emerges is that it could have been a leopard.

    “The communities have to be involved. One area is through livestock management and research. There’s very little chance that a cheetah will go for a healthy goat or cow because it cannot bring down a sizeable animal. Having more livestock to compensate for loss to predators is not a solution either. What’s needed is a healthy number that will not overgraze the land. Again, it helps if the enclosures are well maintained and the herders are alert,” says Mr Lumumba.

    Another issue is farming. “With these two ranches, people have settled on virgin territory that was once scrubland. The soil is not suitable for farming, and it will always be a challenge for the people to get a decent crop here,” says Ms Wykstra.

    “I was like this man before,” says Mr Lumumba. “I was angry when l kept losing my livestock to wildlife. I wanted to kill the cheetahs. When Mary first came to the area, I was even angrier than the rancher we spoke to today. But as time went on, and with her coming often, I started to understand the work that was going on and the problems. I am a shareholder of the ranch too and have a large plot here.

    “So now l attend barazas to talk about our work. I even work with the local women’s groups. Many of them come and tell me about their husbands who kill wild animals to sell to the truck drivers and their concerns if they are arrested.”

    THE NEXT BIGGEST THREAT for the cheetahs comes from the highway.

    “The Salama cheetah then had her next litter of four. Two of them were killed crossing the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. In two years, we counted seven cheetahs killed by trucks and cars. At night, the cats freeze in the headlights of the vehicles, but usually it’s too late for the speeding vehicles to stop.”

    The image that one has of T the svelte cat is of it in full sprint after its prey on the open plains. But research now shows otherwise. CCF is evaluating areas in Kenya for cheetah populations, traditional sites and unique populations.

    “In Maasai Mara, there’s been a marked decline in cheetah numbers,” says Mr Isaboke. “A 1980 survey shows a population of 61 in the Mara triangle. The KWS census in 2002 shows a population of 38. The decline can be attributed to many factors – competition from the larger cats, disease, increased vehicular traffic and human encroachment. It’s the same case in the Kajiado area and the Kitengela/Athi plains, which are being subdivided into smaller plots on what was once an open migratory route for the animals of the Nairobi National Park during the dry season.”

    MAGADI, ON THE OTHER hand, has not been monitored as it has traditionally not been thought of as being a cheetah habitat. It’s more famous for its salt pans and harsh, bush terrain. “We know nothing about the Magadi cheetahs. We’ve also found sizeable populations in north Kenya around Mandera and Wajir, areas of dry bush land,” says Mr Isaboke.

    Traditionally, the north is typified by pastoral people moving with their livestock in search of pasture and water. But with more water points being established in the arid areas, the pastoral people are becoming more settled, which has a further impact on the local wildlife.

    “Most cheetah research has been done inside the protected area in national parks and reserves where they are seen in open grass plains, giving the impression that they are cats of the flat country,” says Ms Wykstra. “But outside the protected area, cheetahs have adapted to different habitats. The Salama cheetahs show that they are adept at living in hilly bush land and their prey, like the reedbuck, are also bush animals. Cheetahs in protected areas tend to hunt for gazelles but outside they go for smaller prey like rabbits, hyrax, vervet monkeys and reedbuck.

    “We’re seeing more cheetah populations outside protected areas, as much as 90 per cent,” she continues. “The reason for that could be competition inside the parks from the bigger cats like the lion and leopard.”

    “Maintaining open spaces is the key to cheetah conservation,” says Ms Wykstra. “It doesn’t mean open spaces without people but co-existence. There’s a need for community-based projects tying in with tourism, perhaps a wildlife conservancy like in other parts of Kenya. It is evident that cheetahs cannot survive in national parks because of competition from other big cats. Environmental education too plays an important part.

    Research helps us to make sensible decisions. Monitoring, as in the case of the Salama cheetah, proved her innocence. But monitoring is expensive. “It costs more than $1,000 per year to monitor the Salama cheetah. Her collar costs $250, the GPS (global positioning system) costs $150. The most expensive parts of the equipment are the receiver and the antenna, which cost $1,000. That’s besides the salaries of the researchers, the fuel, and the time.”

    Hopefully, the countrywide cheetah survey presented to the KWS by the end of the year will help in formulating better policies and strategies for the conservation of the cheetah. Otherwise, we may be seeing the last of the cat. It has happened in other countries.

    For more information on cheetahs in Kenya, log onto the website


  4. Namibia: Farmers Key to Cheetah’s Survival
    New Era (Windhoek)

    3 September 2007
    Posted to the web 3 September 2007

    Surihe Gaomas

    Since the majority of the country’s cheetahs are found in the north-central commercial farmlands, livestock farmers there literally hold the survival of these wild animals in their hands, because the cheetah mainly preys on livestock.

    This is the view with which Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) Dr Laurie Marker encouraged cattle farmers to look at cheetah conservation, at the opening of a financial farm management course for emerging commercial farmers near Otjiwarango last month.

    “Namibia being an arid environment is suitable for extensive beef production.

    In addition, over 70 percent of the country’s wildlife lives on these farmlands.

    This overlap of ranched animals and wildlife requires an integrated approach to this management to assure maximum productivity and sustainability on both components,” said Marker. Cheetah conservation is therefore much more about the cheetah, but also about biodiversity conservation, where human beings and wildlife live in harmony with each other for a sustainable future.

    Good management practices of both livestock and wildlife as well as greater financial benefits constitute the ongoing education for emerging commercial farmers in maintaining sustainable farming practices.

    It is against this background that CCF, together with the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank), held the financial course for emerging farmers on Friday August 24.

    The overall objective of the course was to equip close to 30 emerging and established farmers with insight and understanding of farming finances and enable them to complete their own financial business plans.

    “Good farmers have always been conservationists working with nature to ensure sustainability. Conservation involves land, animal stewardship and wise business practices. Through this course farmers learnt to embrace the concept of conservation through collaboration and the sharing of natural resources in addition to profiting from their livestock,” explained Marker.

    The training course was the latest addition to the CCF’s farmer development programme which complements the existing integrated livestock and predator management and practical farming training courses.

    Officially opening the training course, Chief Executive Officer of Agribank Leonard Iipumbu said the latest course was aimed at enhancing the farmer’s capacity building for effective financial management of the country’s natural resources.

    “Continuous training is the key driver with an objective to improve productivity in order to add value to rural products,” said Iipumbu.

    This year, Agribank contributed an amount of N$70 000 to the consortium, while the total pledge was for more than N$400 000. As part of its three-year turnaround strategy, the agricultural bank is in the process of implementing several projects in fulfilling its mandate as an agricultural and rural developmental financing institution.

    Iipumbu said that while the bank will continually provide its financial products and services to its clients, farmers need to be more proactive.

    “You, the farmers are the catalysts in support of realising our mandate of reviving and sustaining economic growth, creating employment opportunities and alleviating poverty,” he said.

    The specialised training courses hosted by CCF are aimed at various stakeholders, including conservation biologists, wildlife managers and environmental educators, towards integrated livestock and predator management and practical training.

    Last year over 300 farmers participated in 12 one-week training courses.


  5. Namibia: Scientists Study Cheetah

    The Namibian (Windhoek)

    20 September 2007
    Posted to the web 20 September 2007


    THE Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) recently joined forces with a team of four reproductive physiologists from the United States to do research on cheetah reproduction.

    A statement issued by the CCF says the research was aimed at evaluating the influence of age on cheetah reproduction.

    It started on August 21 and ended at the beginning of this month.

    Typically, cheetahs reproduce poorly in captivity and the efficiency of reproduction for female cheetahs drops after eight years of age.

    Scientists from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park in Washington DC and the University of California used ultrasound technology to investigate female cheetahs’ reproductive organs.

    “In addition, oocytes (eggs) from the cheetahs will be recovered and inseminated with sperm in vitro (in the lab),” it said.

    Some of the material was frozen for storage in the CCF’s Genome Resource Bank, a reservoir of frozen genetic and biological materials.

    The study included 33 cheetahs from several facilities in two countries.

    The results, said the statement, would contribute to the growing database on cheetah health and reproduction, vital to ensure the survival of the species.

    CCF, a not-for-profit organisation, was founded in 1990.

    Its mission is to be an internationally recognised centre of excellence in research and education on cheetahs and their ecosystems, working with other parties on the conservation and management of the world’s cheetahs.

    It is located 44 km outside Otjiwarongo.


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