Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is reaching out to elementary and middle-school-age children and their parents with an awareness campaign designed to inspire the next generation of conservationists, International Cheetah Day. This year, Dec. 4, 2014 marks the fourth annual day of observance, which honours the cheetah for its iconic status as the fastest mammal on Earth and calls attention to its plight as the most endangered of all African big cats. According to Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of CCF, the fate of cheetahs rests with our children.
“CCF is at a crossroads. Over the past 24 years, our organization has developed the knowledge and experience to permanently solve the cheetah conservation crisis. Our programmes are working, and we can see the difference we are making”, said Dr. Marker. “But at the same time, unless young people commit to carrying the mantle forward, this amazing animal could disappear in less than 20 years. For the sake of the cheetah and the health of our planet, it is imperative that we raise an army of conservationists with the next generation”.
CCF is encouraging zoos and schools around the world to help spark young people’s interest in conservation by recognizing International Cheetah Day with cheetah-themed activities or classroom lessons. Cheetah teaching and outreach materials, including a downloadable activities packet designed for elementary schoolchildren and a PowerPoint presentation with notes, can be accessed through CCF’s Web sites, www.cheetah.org and www.internationalcheetahday.org. Cheetah photos, videos and social media links are available online as well.
To mark this special day, CCF is hosting an all-day Virtual Cheetah Party on Facebook to which animal lovers of all ages are invited to attend (Facebook.com/CCFcheetah). In addition, CCF is offering suggestions for other creative ways adults can engage young conservationists on International Cheetah Day, including swapping out their online profile photo for a cheetah image, wearing cheetah print or collecting donations to support cheetahs in the wild. The complete list of suggestions can be viewed on CCF’s Web sites.
History of International Cheetah Day
Dr. Marker designated Dec. 4 as International Cheetah Day in remembrance of Khayam, a cheetah she raised from a cub at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon, in the U.S. Dr. Marker trained Khayam for her first research project into re-wilding, and in 1977, was inspired to take Khayam to Namibia to determine if captive-born cheetahs could be taught to hunt. Their efforts were successful and eventually, the pair returned to Oregon. But during this experience, Dr. Marker witnessed wild cheetahs being exterminated by African farmers and vowed to do something about it. Because of Khayam, Dr. Marker dedicated her life to becoming the cheetah’s champion, so she chose Khayam’s birthday to honour all cheetahs.
The cheetah is not only the fastest, but it is also the oldest of all the big cats. It has survived more than three million years through the Ice Age and a genetic bottleneck, only to have its numbers decimated by almost 90 percent in the last 100 years. With fewer than 10,000 animals remaining in the wild, the cheetah population is at great risk of extinction.
“International Cheetah Day serves to remind us that the cheetah, like all wildlife, is a treasure of our planet. Wildlife enhances our landscapes and can support livelihoods when utilized in a sustainable manner”, said Dr. Marker. “When a species becomes extinct, you cannot bring it back, and everyone loses. The good news is cheetahs can be saved; young conservationists hold the key to their future”.
For more information about Dr. Marker or Cheetah Conservation Fund, please visit www.cheetah.org