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Articolo sui Pastori dell’Anatolia che proteggono le greggi in Namibia


Guardian Angels

Running out of time, Africa’s cheetahs find an unlikely canine ally
BY MICHAEL MULLINS

The goats are serenely unaware of the fanged predator slinking ever closer to them. So is the herdsman. When the cheetah is close enough—maybe 50 yards from his prey—he will suddenly break cover, make a lethal dash at speeds that approach 70 mph, and sink his teeth into the neck of his chosen victim. It will all be over in seconds: one goat dead, the rest of the herd scattered in terror.

But it’s not going to happen this time. The herdsman isn’t the only one guarding the goats. There’s also an Anatolian Shepherd dog, more than two feet tall and afraid of nothing. His keen nose gets a sudden whiff of leopard, he braces himself on all four paws, and begins barking fiercely. Spooked, the leopard turns and runs. Breakfast will have to wait.

From time immemorial, Anatolian Shepherds have been bred for just one vital task: protecting isolated flocks in their windswept, mountainous Turkish homeland. They’re strong, fast, and independent, and they don’t back down—not even from wolves.

That’s why in Namibia, in southwest Africa, Anatolians (along with another Turkish breed, the Kangal dog) are being used to keep cheetahs away from herds. And while they protect the livestock, they’re also saving the cheetahs from extinction. The idea behind the program, sponsored by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (cheetah.org) is that if a Shepherd’s barking can scare off a stalking cheetah, the herdsman guarding the flock won’t need to kill it.

In addition to being the world’s fastest land mammal, the cheetah is one of the fastest-disappearing species on the planet. In just the last century, the worldwide wild cheetah population has declined by 90 percent, and they’re extinct in 20 countries they once inhabited. Only about 10,000 adult cheetahs are believed to remain in the wild, mainly in Africa’s southern and eastern regions (in addition to about 50 to 100 in Iran). Namibia is home to the largest and healthiest of the surviving cheetah populations.

Although nature preserves can protect cheetahs from human depredation, they don’t prevent attacks from the larger, more aggressive predators, such as lions and -hyenas, which not only covet the animals the cheetah kills, but also prey on its cubs. To escape, the cheetahs are often forced to move to farmland areas, where they face fewer natural predators.

But it’s precisely in those farming and herding areas that the cheetahs run the risk of being killed by people who regard them as simply a threat to their livestock.That’s where the Livestock Guarding Dog Program, the brainchild of Dr. Laurie Marker, CCF’s co-founder and executive director, comes into play.

Trained not to attack or chase a predator, the guard dog stands its ground and barks—enough to scare off most predators and alert a farmer that his stock is in peril.

And cheetahs, which are much smaller than other predators in the cat family, are not usually aggressive and will generally retreat from a barking dog.

“The use of the Anatolian Shepherd program in Namibia has been significant in reducing cheetah removals from the farmlands,” Dr. Marker tells Cesar’s Way.

Since 1994, the CCF has placed 260 of the broad-shouldered dogs, which stand two-and-a-half feet high and weigh on average 140 pounds, on farms. The farmers selected for the program are carefully screened and receive training on how to care for the dogs, says Patricia Tricorache, CCF’s assistant director of international relations. Once acclimated to its new surrounding, the dog lives, sleeps, and eats with the livestock.

CCF representatives make routine visits to farms to check on the animals’ welfare. If they find that a Shepherd is not receiving the adequate care it deserves, it is taken back to CCF or placed with another farmer. And when the dogs get too old, they’re retired to CCF’s –Namibian headquarters to live out their days as pets.

Right now, says Tricorache, 151 dogs participate in the program—104 working dogs, 38 retirees, and nine puppies that have yet to be placed. The annual cost of the program, which includes food, accommodations, vaccinations, and the neutering of the puppies bred at CCF’s 110-acre-sanctuary, is $150,000. Says Dr. Marker, “We only have a few years if we want to give the cheetahs a place in the world to survive.”

 



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