By: Kemble Mountcastle
Did you know cheetahs can reach their top speed of 70 mph in just three seconds?
While this speed is impressive, unfortunately another element of speed is catching up to the cheetah: its low survival rate.
At the turn of the 20th Century, there were approximately 100,000 cheetahs living throughout Africa and parts of Asia as well. Now, there are just over 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild.
Cheetah preservation and conservation are one of its most notable causes. Donations support the Cheetah Outreach Program in South Africa. Deon Cilliers is the Manager of the Livestock Guarding Dog Program for Cheetah Outreach in South Africa.
The dogs used for this particular training are Turkish Anatolian Shepherd dogs. Once properly and fully trained, a select number of dogs are placed on South African farms, depending on the farm’s need. Their purpose is to guard livestock in an effort to reduce conflict between farmers and predators in South Africa.
This program does not cause any harm to cheetahs. While the dogs are trained to guard livestock and farmers, they do not harm the cheetahs or damage their population rates. In fact, the Cheetah Outreach Program hand-rears cubs from cheetah breeding facilities in South Africa and raises them to be ambassadors of the species.
Despite popular belief, cheetah population is in danger just as much as the local livestock. There are only about an estimated 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild today. Despite being the fastest animals on the planet, cheetahs may not be fast enough to escape endangerment without the help of humans, which is where Ron Magill and the Cheetah Outreach program come in.
“Working with these cheetahs has been a huge goal of mine,” says Magill. “I’m so amazed by their majestic beauty and their undeniable power. Every child should be able to see a cheetah in the wild and that is exactly why I do what I do.”
The Cheetah Outreach Program is a great organization striving to help cheetahs grow and thrive in their natural habitat. This program is a strong component of the endowment’s overall educational mission, and helps to develop a better understanding of cheetahs. Since the founding of the organization in 1997, creating awareness through environmental education and partnering with other wildlife conservation organizations has helped save the lives of many cheetahs in the African wild.
Magill has gotten to see quite the transformations of not only the growth of the program, but also of the dogs who get trained for their duties there.
“You’re probably wondering, how can dogs and cheetahs be beneficial for each other without killing each other?” This program is unique in the way they train their special dogs. These dogs are being bred and raised to help protect farms and livestock from becoming prey or hunted down by cheetahs in South Africa. It is simple: animals helping animals, with a little help from humans.
“While working for the Cheetah Outreach program, I’ve seen these dogs just as little puppies. Cute as heck, as you’d imagine. They grow to be such mature and majestic animals, much like the cheetah, also. But the amount of capability and smarts these dogs have are so impressive, I think they’re smarter than me.”