As a lover of all animals, wildlife conservation is important to me. There has always been an extinction process of animals as a natural means of evolution. But protecting endangered species and their habitats is crucial to human survival as well. When we lose even one predator, it can upset the balance of nature. Finding a balance between humans and the animal world can be difficult, especially when dealing with farmers trying to protect their livestock from predators. To a poor farmer, each animal lost to a predator can be devastating. In Africa, The Cheetah Conservation Fund works with farmers to educate them about a special dog breed and shows them how this dog can help save the most endangered cat in Africa and protect domestic livestock. The Anatolian Shepherd Dog has become the Cheetah’s best friend and the cat’s best hope for survival.
The Anatolian Shepherd dog, also known as the Anatolian sheepdog or Kangal dog, is one of the giant dog breeds. Males stand 28 – 30 inches tall and weigh in at 100-150 pounds. Females are 26-28 inches tall and weigh 90-130 pounds. The Kangal dog is a formidable foe with an impressive show of force against any predator who wanders into their territory. These dogs were bred 6,000 years ago in Turkey as guard dogs to protect the farmers flocks from wolves, bears and other predators. An Anatolian Shepherd dog is an aloof breed who can think for himself and make his own decisions. He considers everything, including animals or people, in his territory his property and will fiercely defend what he considers to be his.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund has been working with farmers in Namibia, Africa since 1994 when they began a Livestock Guarding Dog Program. The Anatolian Shepherd dog was chosen for this program because the dog doesn’t need humans to do the work they were bred to do and they have the stamina and desire to guard a large territory. The dog’s short coat is suited for the climate in Africa and his intimidating size helps him convince a Cheetah to stay away from his flock.
The dog adapts well to his environment and can stand up to the harsh temperatures in this part of the world. He is a guard dog who has been bred to blend in with his sheep which gives him the advantage over a cat who thinks a flock of sheep are unguarded and on their own. The dog surveys his territory throughout the day, marking his territory as he inspects every inch. He will then find a spot where he can keep watch and hear what’s going on around him. If he feels threatened, he tries to scare off predators by barking and if that doesn’t do the job, then he’ll use more forceful measures. The Anatolian Shepherd dog is a big dog and few Cheetahs argue with him.
There are only around 3,000 Cheetahs left in Africa and an estimated 10,000 worldwide. These cats are built for speed, easily reaching speeds up to 70 mph. They a flexible backbone and claws that dig into the dirt giving the cat the ability to twist and turn with her prey. The cat’s biggest threat is the shrinking of their natural habitat and having to compete with farmers for the land. With a loss of prey, the cat will then turn to a farmer’s livestock for food. It’s not the Cheetahs fault when she’s only trying to survive, but it’s the big cat who will pay with her life for stealing a farmer’s sheep. A farmer who has lost a sheep to one of these cats will hunt them down and kill it. By educating farmers about the dog and how he can help them, more and more farmers are opting in for a dog and not killing the cats. The conservation fund works with farmers on a wildlife and livestock management course to help them understand how to care for their flocks with disease control and building enclosures that are predator proof.
Raised in a breeding program, the Kangal pups live with their flock because it’s the dog’s nature to bond with the animals or human they live with. A Kangal dog will tolerate those outside the family unit, but he is watchful and protective of his family whether it’s a flock of sheep or a human family. Farmers who have gone through a training program and are found suitable for giving responsible care to the dogs will receive one of these guard dogs. Those who have been in the dog program have found the dog does his job so well, there is no longer a need to hunt down and kill a Cheetah. The farmers have also noticed the dog’s keep other predators away from their flocks as well and livestock losses to all predators has gone down.
The Livestock Guarding Dog Program is only one of the programs helping to save the endangered Cheetah. There’s no reason why man and wildlife can’t share the same space. The Anatolian Shepherd dog and Cheetah are very much enemies, but because of this dog’s self reliance and devotion to his flock; when he’s doing the job he was bred to do, Cheetahs live and that’s a win for the cat and the farmer.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia, Africa, Enchanted Lands and Fables
Dr. Laurie Marker – The Cheetah Conservation Fund, safaritalk.net
Kangal Dogs Are Saving Cheetahs From Extinction, wn.com