Dr. Laurie Marker, founder of Cheetah Conservation Fund

by | Aug 24, 2016

Dr. Laurie Marker—the founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), speaking by phone from the CCF base in Namibia—recounts her childhood, growing up near Los Angeles, and how animals were central to her life even then, though it was mainly horses, noting she started riding as a young kid and still tries to ride daily now. 1070680_370Marker describes her first job at an animal park—Wildlife Safari in Oregon, where she began at age 20, staying 16 years—which also represents her first time working with cheetahs. She addresses what spoke to her about cheetahs, what exactly enchanted her about the cats, the affinity that has characterized her career for more than three decades. Reflecting on efforts to cultivate a captive breeding program during her stint at Wildlife Safari, Marker explains the challenges of breeding cheetahs, including their unique genetic characteristics. Talking numbers, she says that over the Screen shot 2011-05-22 at 12.23.51 PMlast 100 years, there has been a 90% decline in the wild cheetah population, to fewer than 7000, with about half that located in Namibia—and that population has risen a bit, owing to various CCF strategies, including measures with community farmers and ranchers to help protect their livestock from being killed by cheetahs, which in turn has helped prevent cheetahs from being killed by angry farmers and ranchers. (She estimates there are 1600 cheetahs in captivity.) We spend some time exploring the word “conservation,” partly because it’s in the name of her organization, partly because, I observe, the word gets bandied about pretty loosely—or just plain co-opted—by all kinds of entities who use it to cover less than glorious activities, or simply as a fundraising gambit. Marker gazes ahead 10 years, elucidating what the next decade looks like for the future of cheetahs and their population. (http://cheetah.org)

COMEDY CORNER: Mike Birbiglia’s “Arctic Fox, It’s A Setup” (http://birbigs.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” Sharon Jones’ “How Do I Let A Good Man Down,” The Tragically Hip’s “Gus: The Polar Bear From Central Park” (I’m thinking about you, Gord Downie), instrumentals

 NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Rufus Thomas’ “Walking The Dog”


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