Ramona, California–Dr. Laurie Marker, a wildlife researcher who is considered one of the world’s top experts on cheetahs, visited the home of well known wildlife photographer Roy Toft and his wife Robin on September 21, 2014.
She was there to talk about her work as founder and director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, Africa. Dr. Laurie [as she likes to be called] is known as the Jane Goodall of the cheetah world. She is on her fall 2014 tour of the United States.
For over 40 years she has worked with cheetahs and spread the word of conservation. There are only 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild, and Dr. Marker wants to change that as the vast majority of wild cheetahs are outside protected areas and poaching is rampant.
Dr. Marker founded the non-profit Cheetah Conservation Fund in 1990. Since that time, she has worked tirelessly to create a permanent conservation and research center for cheetahs in the wild while also taking a three part holistic approach to the many factors involved.
First, CCF has been working with the Namibian farmers to protect their livestock by breeding and introducing Anatolian Shepherds and Kangal dogs to effectively guard their herds from predators.
Second, CCF is also concerned with the land and habitat as much of Namibia is being invaded by Senegalia, a tough thorny bush that prevents the cheetahs from hunting and the livestock from grazing. Through her conservation program, she has created something called a Bushblok which is fuel made from compressed Senegalia pellets. It is a clean burning fuel that can provide home heating and cooking in regions where electricity is scarce.
Third, CCF maintains a cheetah sanctuary to rescue and raise orphaned cheetahs and Bellebenno Game Camp, a 4,000 hectare wildlife holding area for soft releasing cheetahs before re-introducing them into the wild. CCF has strategic programs in education, integration of livestock and wildlife management systems, habitat restoration, predator species conservation as well as sustainable development of the Namibian economy.
All this takes funds and twice a year in the spring and fall, Dr. Marker, leaves Namibia to go on tour in the United States. She will be traveling throughout California and Oregon from September 18 until October 11, giving presentations, signing books, and raising money, as well making known the plight of the cheetah.
On October 16, she will be at the 13th annual CCF Benefit Gala in Washington, D.C. Check the website for exact dates and locations. www.cheetah.org
It is easy to understand Dr. Laurie’s fascination with cheetahs. Gazing into the soulful, amber eyes of Kumbali, the other guest of honor at the Toft’s home, I was struck by this cheetah’s beauty and grace. Kumbali is a magnificent 13 year ambassador for the San Diego Zoo.
Unfortunately, cheetahs are also Africa’s most endangered cat which is why Dr. Laurie has been fighting so hard for their survival.
Here is a Smithsonian video on CCF and Dr. Marker: