Saturday, January 22, 2011

Guard dogs save Namibian cheetahs

A scheme using dogs to protect sheep and goats from attack by wild animals in Namibia is proving so successful that it has been exported to Kenya. With their livestock safe from attack, farmers no longer feel the need to hunt cheetahs and leopards.

"We have had amazing results," Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund told the BBC.
"Since the dogs were imported, the cheetah population had increased by a third," she said.

Anatolian Kangal dogs are extremely loyal and are ready to fight to the death.  The puppies are given to farmers when they are just eight weeks old.

If the farmers are losing livestock they will track every predator down. But if there are no livestock loss then harmony is developed. They grow up with the flocks of goats and sheep they are to guard and bond with them.

If a predator approaches, the dogs bark loudly and the flock gathers round them. This is enough to scare most attackers off, Ms Marker says.  The cheetah may go without a meal, but the result is that the farmers don't suffer losses and so they learn to live with the big cats, she says.
Instead of shooting leopard and cheetah or putting poison down to kill jackals, farmers will tolerate these predators.  The Conservation Trust began importing the Kangal from Turkey in 1994 and since then has provided around 300 dogs to farmers.  The dogs have a long history, having been bred specially to protect domestic animals.
"Livestock loss has been reduced by over 80%," Ms Marker says.  Namibia's cheetah population has increased by a third.

"We have a huge waiting list and we are constantly trying to breed more dogs for the farmers." Namibia now has around a quarter of the world's cheetah.

"Today we estimate the population at 3,000 - it is Africa's most endangered big cat," says Ms Marker.  So successful has the programme been that it is being exported to Kenya's famous reserve, the Masai Mara.  The first puppy, Iseiya, has arrived safely.  The hope is that it will grow up with Kenya's goats and play the same role in protecting its flocks as they now do in Namibia.


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