As fast as a cheetah. Whether it's describing a car or the best runner in a race, the comparison is made all the time. It's for good reason, too. The cheetah is the speediest runner on Earth. Sadly, the cheetah is also quickly disappearing.
Just 100 years ago, the spotted cat was a common sight in Africa and Asia. There were about 100,000 cheetahs in the world. But that number has dropped sharply. Cheetahs were captured and sold as pets. They were hunted and killed for their fur. And their habitat shrank as people built cities where wilderness used to be. Today, there are only about 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild.
Laurie Marker is the founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). She has spent nearly 40 years helping the wild cats. She says it is still possible to save them. "I do believe we can turn back time," she told TFK. "We now have the tools."
A Brighter Future for the Cats
In 1977, Marker moved to Namibia, a country in southern Africa where the cheetah population was quickly shrinking. Farmers were killing the wild cats to protect their livestock.
Marker had an idea. She knew that for thousands of years, farmers in Turkey had been using special dogs, called Anatolian shepherds, to protect their livestock. These guard dogs scare away predators without hurting them. "They bark loudly," says Marker. "They stand their ground."
About 20 years ago, Marker and her team began placing the dogs on Namibian farms. Since then, she says, "we've stopped the killing and doubled the country's cheetah population." Now the dogs are being used in other African countries, too. As a result, fewer cheetahs are being killed.
Marker's goal is for people, livestock and wild cheetahs to be able to live in harmony. "That's my vision," she says, "and it's doable."
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