Animals
1:38 pm
Sun May 25, 2014

Global Cheetah Expert Visits Pittsburgh

A world-renowned cheetah expert and conservationist was in Pittsburgh this weekend, visiting four new cheetahs at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Laurie Marker, the founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund located in Namibia, said she hopes the two females and two males at the zoo will be “educational ambassadors” for her research and conservation efforts.

“We hope that this relationship grows and more people here in Pittsburgh learn about what we do and want to become engaged in helping save, I think, the most amazing species in the world,” Marker said. “They need help.”

The zoo also made a $3,000 grant from the PPG Sustainability Fund to the Cheetah Conservation Fund to assist with Marker’s work with local livestock farmers.

“The cheetah is an animal that does not do well in protected game reserves, so we work outside game reserves with the farming community to help reduce livestock losses in a human-wildlife conflict resolution strategy,” Marker said.

Marker’s organization breeds a dog called the Anatolian shepherd, which is useful for guarding livestock from predators. When a cheetah approaches, the dog will bark loudly, which sends the cheetah elsewhere in search of food.

Marker founded the nonprofit Cheetah Conservation Fund in 1990. Through her work in Namibia and other countries, the cheetah population has increased to 10,000.

“In Namibia, where we’re based … we’ve doubled the population in the 25 years (since) I’ve set the foundation up there,” Marker said. “We have around 4,000 of the world’s cheetah population. Namibia is called the cheetah capital of the world.”

Marker said she considers the cheetah to be the most fascinating animal in the world.

“I’m interested in their lack of genetic diversity, and I’m very interested in the huge home ranges they live in, of 800 square miles, and their family structure of mothers raising the cubs up alone,” Marker said.

Marker said the cheetah is at the top of the food chain in its home range and is vital to the success and long-term viability of the ecosystem in which it lives.