Wildlife Watch: Guarding Presidential Goats

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Guard dogs trained by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) are now at work on some 50 farms in Namibia protecting livestock, including goats belonging to President Sam Nujoma of Namibia.

The CCF, which has received support from AWF's predator program, launched the guard dog program three years ago in Namibia to help farmers control predators with nonlethal methods. The first dogs in the program were Anatolian livestock guarding dogs imported from Hampshire College in Massachusetts. The breed, which originated in Turkey, has been used for thousands of years to guard livestock; in the United States the dogs protect herds from wolves and coyotes.

The goal of the program, says Laurie Marker, the director of CCF, is to introduce new ways to keep cheetahs away from livestock without killing them. Fewer than 13,000 cheetahs remain in the world, most of them scattered throughout 25 African countries. Namibia, with 2,400 cheetahs, has the largest remaining population, but it has been reduced by half in the last decade through habitat loss, poaching, decline in prey and the indiscriminate killing of cheetahs that appear to threaten livestock or human life.

Fifty dogs so far are working on farms in Namibia, and their numbers are growing. The CCF first donated dogs to protect stock from cheetahs but found they are effective in guarding against other predators like jackals and caracals. Dogs have also been placed at two of Namibia's agricultural colleges so students may learn how the dogs work.

The dogs are placed as pups between 6 and 8 weeks so they can "bond" with the livestock, Marker says. They are not herding dogs but they do accompany the animals wherever they go, repelling potential predators.

President Nujoma keeps his goats on one of his farms, about 12 miles outside the town of Otavi, and about 50 miles from CCF.