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Posted on 04.14.2014 6:12 p.m.

Race Against Extinction: Cheetah Conservation Fund Founder to Speak in Santa Barbara

Source: Diane Zakian Rumbaugh for the Cheetah Conservation Fund

Dr. Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund and widely considered the world’s leading expert on the cheetah, will be in Santa Barbara on Saturday, May 3 to discuss efforts to help the cheetah win its race against extinction.

Dr. Laurie Marker
Dr. Laurie Marker is the founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

The fundraising event will take place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the gardens of the Santa Barbara Club, 1105 Chapala St. in Santa Barbara. Established in 1892, the Santa Barbara Club is one of the oldest private clubs in the country. Those who attend will hear a presentation by Marker about CCF current efforts and future plans to save cheetahs from extinction as well as meet a live Cheetah “ambassador” named Tango.

Marker is the author of a new book, A Future for Cheetahs, with photos by wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas. It includes rare images of cheetahs in the wild. Marker has conducted research on cheetahs since 1974. In 1990, Marker left her position with the Smithsonian and moved to Namibia to found the CCF so that she could work directly with cheetahs in the wild and the communities on whose land the cheetahs share.

The cheetah is Africa’s oldest big cat and also its most endangered. Ninety percent of the population of cheetahs has been decimated in the last 100 years. CCF has built a world renowned International Research and Conservation Centre that is comprised of 100,000 acres, a vet clinic, genetics lab, model farm with goats, sheep and cows, livestock guarding dogs, and approximately 42 orphaned or injured cheetahs.

“Saving the cheetah requires that we address everything that’s needed to sustain the cheetah as a species in the wild," Marker says. "That means caring about farmers who view cheetahs a threat to their livelihoods. That means proper management of livestock and being concerned with the health of prey species populations and with habitat loss caused by climate change and aggravated by poor farming techniques. Saving the cheetah is really about making a world that people and wildlife can live in together.”

Marker pioneered the use of livestock guarding dogs in Africa, breeding and training Anatolian shepherd and Kangal dogs to protect local herds so that farmers are not threatened by cheetahs on their land. The CCF has placed nearly 500 dogs since 1994, with about 150 dogs in service at any given time, and placing over 40 dogs last year alone. Farmers who use a CCF dog to guard their livestock report a drop in livestock loss of 80 to 100 percent, and these farmers now are far less likely to kill or trap cheetah on their lands.

Organizing the Santa Barbara event is Kristin Larson, an environmental lawyer with the Santa Barbara law firm Paladin Law Group.

“There are so many great organizations that focus on saving specific types of animals. CCF has developed ways to enhance the entire socio-economic system, which has resulted in fewer conflicts between humans and cheetahs,” said Larson, who has been involved in CCF for many years.

With the help of Africa Inside (an organization specializing in African conservation), the event will feature students from Adelante Charter School in Santa Barbara who will help educate guests on key aspects of cheetah biology, their ecosystem, and their conservation.

“It's pure serendipity that Adelante's school mascot is … you guessed it, a cheetah!” Marker said.

Tickets for the afternoon gathering, which includes hord d’oeuvres, are $125 per adult and $45 per child. All proceeds go to the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Tickets can be purchased online by clicking here.

— Diane Zakian Rumbaugh is a publicist representing the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

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