New Era (Windhoek)

19 February 2013

Namibia: Cheetah Conservation Message Goes to Schools

Windhoek — The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is taking the message to protect Namibia's cheetah population to various schools in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, targeting learners in grades 5 through 7.

The education officer of the CCF, Gebhardt Nikanor, will be responsible for the annual educational outreach programme, which is expected to take place during February 18-22.

Each year, the CCF highlights topics including Namibian predator identification, ecological and physiological characteristics of the cheetah, and problems associated with human/cheetah conflicts.

The educational outreach programmes help raise awareness about the importance of saving wildlife such as cheetahs.

Nikanor has been conducting the educational outreach programmes for Namibian youth for over 12 years.

"Returning to these schools where I have developed relationships with the teachers and the learners has provided a strong basis for ongoing environmental education. I want each of the learners to have a deep appreciation for all of Namibia's wildlife," said Nikanor.

"The cheetah is a great umbrella species that they can relate to and learn more about its challenges for survival and how they can be a part of its survival and the ecosystem in which it lives," he said.

Through its educational outreach programmes, the CCF fosters an appreciation for cheetahs by school learners, as they are the future wildlife conservationists of our increasingly global society.

"Education is so important for building a strong future, and our programmes provide excitement and a strong foundation for wildlife [appreciation]. Using the fastest land animal, the cheetah, CCF educators provide information about wildlife and the environment and the excitement of our natural resources to the learners," said CCF executive director Laurie Marker.

CCF, a Namibian non-profit trust in existence since 1991, conducts educational outreach programmes throughout the entire country and also hosts schools for weekends at their Lightfoot Camp, reaching over 20 000 learners each year.

The goal of the CCF is to raise awareness on the plight of the cheetah and society's role in its long-term survival. Over the years, CCF educators have reached over 300 000 school children, eager to instill within them an appreciation for Namibia - the cheetah haven of the world.

In addition to weekend camps for schools, the organization also runs an open-to-the-public field research and education centre, 45km east of Otjiwarongo, and welcomes school groups and day visitors from 9am to 5pm every day except on Christmas Day.

Over the years, the CCF has conducted long-term studies on the cheetah and its ecosystem, while working closely with local farming communities to alleviate human/wildlife conflict, and sharing their knowledge on the habits of the cheetah.

Since 1990, the organisation has developed education and conservation programmes based on its bio-medical cheetah research studies; published over 60 scientific research papers; presented educational programmes to more than 300 000 outreach school learners, and donated over 400 livestock guarding dogs to commercial and communal farmers as part of the CCF innovative non-lethal livestock management programme. It has also established a cheetah genome resource bank of cheetah sperm, tissue and blood samples.

Research into cheetah biology and ecology has greatly increased understanding of the fastest land animal, and education programmes for schools and the farming community have helped change public attitudes to allow the predator and humans to co-exist.

Despite the many successes of CCF programmes, the cheetah is still Africa's most endangered big cat with only 10 000 cheetahs remaining.

List of schools to be visited by CCF in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay during the period February 18-22 2013:

Pro-Ed Academy Swakopmund Private School, Flamingo Primary School, JP Brandt Primary School, Antlantic Junior Secondary School, Hanganeni Primary School, Festus Gonteb Primary School, Westside Primary School, Vrederede Primary School, Kuisebmund Primary School, !Nara Primary School, Walvis Bay Primary School, Immanuel Ruiters Primary School, Tutaleni Primary School and Duinesig Primary School.

Please contact CCF if you would like to schedule an educational visit to the CCF Field Research and Education Centre or would like to have an education programme at your school.

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