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The cheetah is Africa’s most threatened large cat. The recent census by the IUCN has estimated the global cheetah population at approximately 7000 individuals, clearly demonstrating Botswana as one of the last strongholds of the species with 30% of the world’s population.
However, Botswana’s cheetahs are under threat. From an ecological perspective, agricultural farmlands serve as critical habitat for cheetahs in Botswana as they tend to be unable to compete in formal protected areas that hold higher densities of larger carnivore species. Nearly 80% of cheetahs are estimated to live outside reserves on unprotected lands, where they come into conflict with livestock farmers. However, such areas are becoming increasingly overgrazed and poorly managed. Livestock production is not effective, carnivore conflict is high, and wildlife populations continue to decline.
Currently, human-wildlife conflict is the greatest threat to Kalahari carnivores, especially the cheetah and wild dog populations. To stop wildlife decline, changes must be made to the current methods of land and livestock management. Although many farmers harbor negative attitudes towards carnivores in general, there is concurrent realization that wildlife is a national resource for tourism, and therefore farmers are becoming more interested in techniques that minimize conflict and enable coexistence.
This initiative provides farmers with effective tools to decrease carnivore conflict and improve livestock production, with the goal of increasing tolerance towards cheetahs and other threatened carnivores. We work to achieve this through:
Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB) has successfully piloted the livestock guarding dog project in the Western Kalahari. The initiative has been welcomed by farmers and we are now looking for support to develop and scale up the activities. Local breed ‘Tswana’ dogs are sourced from local communities and from animal shelters, getting a second chance at life. They bond with the livestock and defend them from danger, enabling coexistence between farmers and cheetahs. With training and support provided by CCB, our aim is that the utilization of livestock guarding dogs will increase, along with the use of related livestock management practices. Our objectives are to:
Eventual success will be an increase in the use of effective livestock management practices, a decrease in human-carnivore conflict incidents, improved livelihoods, and a greater appreciation of the value of coexistence and conservation.
This project’s overall goal is to provide training and resources to the local communities so that they can effectively manage their livelihoods without negatively impacting wildlife. CCB has been working in the Western Kalahari region since 2008 and already has a positive relationship with local residents. Feedback from community members has informed our strategy and communities continue to request support in the conservation of their resources and the management of their livestock in this wildlife-rich area. The resources we offer – from the livestock guarding dogs, to the training opportunities, to the Farmers’ Network – reduce livestock losses, improve productivity, and strengthen livelihoods for Kalahari farming communities.
Cheetah Conservation Botswana was founded in 2003 to promote and support the long-term conservation of cheetahs in Botswana. The work highlighted here fits into our overall strategy of increasing knowledge and promoting best practices in sustainable livestock management practices and non-lethal carnivore control. In the longer term, improved farm management will assist in improving livestock production and range health, which will in turn assist with improving ecological diversity on farmlands and supporting more secure livelihoods for communities living with wildlife.
'I give a big thank you to Cheetah Conservation Botswana for giving me a well-trained livestock guarding dog. This dog has done wonders, it has helped stop a problem that was giving me sleepless nights. With this dog I confidently say predation in my farm is a thing of the past. Cheetahs, jackals and caracals are still in this area but they are not a problem anymore. The dog has stopped them from preying on my livestock. Nowadays I release my goats out to graze with confidence and assured of their safety.
‘Thank you, Cheetah Conservation Botswana! I used to hate predators roaming around my farm but now I am a changed man. I met with Cheetah Conservation Botswana’s dedicated team which took me through a very informed discussion about farming with carnivores, ever-since then I am now assisting other farmers to come up with better mitigation measures against carnivores so we do not feel we have to kill them. CCB gave me a very dedicated livestock guarding dog. Come day and night the dog is fully on duty. In his presence, there is no predation. I can now sell excess livestock and make other necessary developments in my family. CCB please keep on the good work you are doing’.
‘In June 2018 I found 4 of my sheep dead nearby the house, three days later I lost more sheep and started to realise it was cheetahs responsible for killing my sheep. I decided to contact Cheetah Conservation Botswana and from day one they have been helpful and effective. They advised that it would help to get dogs to guard my sheep. They brought two puppies for training and two adult dogs. Since the dogs arrived I have not lost any sheep. In total before CCB came I have lost 18 sheep. CCB know how to do their job and they keep on coming to check on the dogs. I am very thankful’.
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