Children at a Namibian school pet a domesticated African cheetah, brought in by a conservationist to teach children about cheetahs.
Photograph by Chris Johns, National Geographic Creative
Present-day wild cheetah populations are estimated to be just 10 percent of what they were a century ago.
Illustration courtesy Cheetah Conservation Fund
Published December 2, 2014
The world’s fastest land animal is running for its life. Today, fewer than 10,000 cheetahs remain in the wild, down from 100,000 a hundred years ago.
Cheetah Conservation Fund
Cheetahs are the only big cat that hunts primarily during the day, so when livestock is killed by a predator, farmers often blame cheetahs. Cheetahs end up being killed as farmers try to protect their domestic animals.
Fortunately, organizations such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a partner of the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, are working with farmers on the ground in places like Namibia—the country with the largest remaining cheetah population—to help ensure the cheetah’s survival. But its best hope, says Dr. Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of CCF, is today’s children.
“Our programs are working, and we can see the difference we are making,” says 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.”
There are many ways to help in conserving wildlife, according to Marker. “Even if [children are] interested in being a teacher or a computer specialist, conservation can play a role in those aspects too.” And you don’t have to wait until you grow up! Marker says children can start their own nature club or be a kid reporter to share what they’ve learned about cheetahs.
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Other Ways to Help
- Raise money for conservation programs and organizations, such as the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, Cheetah Conservation Fund, African People and Wildlife Fund, and Panthera Ruaha Carnivore Project.
- Learn all you can about cheetahs. Go to zoos that have cheetahs. Study them in school. Share your knowledge with family, friends, and classmates. The more you know about cheetahs, the better chance we will have to help them survive.
- Visit Africa, if possible. The money that tourists bring to Africa’s nations can help support conservation efforts.
See other ways kids are helping cheetahs. (external link)
“Other Ways to Help” adapted from Face to Face With Cheetahs by Chris Johns with Elizabeth Carney, National Geographic