A major threat to the survival of the cheetah in Namibia is retaliatory killing or preventative killing of this wild cat species by farmers. They think the cheetah kills their livestock such as calves. Either they kill the cheetah because they think a cheetah has killed a calf or they want to prevent the cheetah killing livestock so they poison, trap or simply shoot it.
Two zoos in the UK, one at Chester and one at Colchester decided to do something about this problem. They sent staff over to Namibia having devised methods to satisfy the farmers.
They trapped cheetahs, tranquillised them and attached radio collars. The radio collars allow them to track the animal and it also allows them to know whether they have attacked and killed livestock. In doing this they are able to ascertain whether the cheetah represents a real threat to farmers’ livestock.
What they found was that most cheetahs did not attack livestock. In knowing this, they are able to tackle a culture amongst farmers of killing the cheetah. The culture is entrenched so will take time to turn things around but at least they have the evidence to be able to argue their case that by killing this wild cat they are not protecting their livestock. The killings are pointless and of course highly detrimental to the survival of this precious cat.
In addition, the British zoo staff are engaged in discussions with the farmers to see whether they would adopt methods which are not fatal to the cheetah. One such method is to employ donkeys, believe you’re not. Certain donkeys can act as guards to herds of livestock. They protect the livestock and they will attack any threat by kicking the animal.
Combining these two techniques should dramatically improve conservation of this magnificent wild cat species. Namibia is the one place on the planet where the cheetah has a relatively high population and therefore there is a greater potential for clashes between the animal and the farmers making it all the more important to find ways to protect both livestock, cat and the farmer’s living.