Through EARTH Ltd, Southwick’s Zoo supports and donates to Cheetah Conservation Botswana (CCB), a conservation organization dedicated to protecting Botswana’s cheetahs as well as other big cats and wildlife.
The world’s largest population of cheetahs can be found in Botswana with an estimated population of 1,700 individuals. This accounts for around 25% of the world’s remaining wild cheetahs.
One of the main threats against cheetah populations in Botswana is retaliation and preemptive killings for livestock protection from local farmers and poaching for illegal trade. Today Africa’s most threatened big cat, the cheetah, is formerly protected by laws in Botswana and internationally by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species where cheetahs are listed on Appendix I. However despite these restrictions, many cheetahs are still killed in retaliation for real or perceived livestock protection.
Cheetah Conservation Botswana aims to preserve and protect the nation’s cheetah population through scientific research, conservation education, outreach with farmers, and community development. CCB works with people affected by carnivore species to promote peaceful coexistence. Through donations, Southwick’s Zoo proudly supports CCB’s initiatives to preserve and protect these beautiful and important animals.
Most rural communities in Botswana depend on livestock farming. Although research studies have shown only a small portion of a cheetah’s diet consists of livestock (less than 6%), there is a common misconception that carnivores are a danger to livestock. This has led many farmers who share the land with cheetahs to often consider them as pests. This perception amongst farmers that carnivores have a negative impact on their livestock has led to retaliatory and preemptive killings. Human-wildlife conflict is one of the main reasons for the loss of 90% of the world’s cheetah population (around 90,000 cats). Since the 2000s, half of the world’s cheetah population has been lost. From an estimate of 12-15,000 individuals in 2000 to 7,100 today.
CCB aims to instill a respect and an understanding of the role carnivores play in the ecosystem while helping to assist farmers to protect their livestock from predation.
Through their “Farming for Conservation” project, CCB has started a livestock guarding dog program. They use local Tswana dogs that are raised with livestock and instinctively protect them from threats such as carnivores. CCB provides free veterinary care for these guarding dogs and support for the farmers who use them. Since its creation in 2013, the Livestock Guarding Dog program has placed over 130 guard dogs to farmers in need. Contributions made from Southwick’s Zoo directly aid CCB in ensuring these projects are possible.
In 2021, Cheetah Conservation Botswana published two scientific journals about livestock guarding dogs which found the CCB’s program reduced livestock loss completely in at least 85% of cases.
Since 2003, CCB has been working alongside the Botswana Government to help facilitate the coexistence between the rural communities and native carnivore species. With a focus on empowering locals to alleviate human-wildlife conflict CCB has been able to help thousands of Botswanans live peacefully with wildlife.
Southwick’s Zoo’s contributions provide resources for Cheetah Conservation Botswana to promote a peaceful coexistence with people and carnivorous species.