A dog may be man’s best friend, but with a new partnership between conservationists and farmers pairs man’s best friend with nature’s fastest animal. Cheetahs are the most endangered wild cat, and in Africa and in the United States, researchers are looking to dogs to help limit poaching and increasing health.
At the Columbus Zoo, Labrador retrievers share exhibit space with the big cats, in the attempts to comfort and run with them. Suzi Rapp, who runs the program, says “If you place the puppy with the cubs, then pretty soon the cubs don’t realize – they think it’s their brother, their sister…What I’ve learned is that we want our cheetahs to have all the confidence in the world. And we know we can’t give it to them, but we know the dogs can.”
In the CBS News video, you can see a dog comforting a cheetah after a leg surgery. The zoo credits the Lab for the cheetah’s emotional and physical recovery.
In the wild, the Anatolian Shepherd is used to encourage conservation. The dog guards the land for the farmers, keeping the cheetahs away. Because the dog can scare off the cheetahs, the farmers are less likely to need to trap or kill them to protect their land. The Cheetah Conservation Fund also believes that having dogs around is helping to prevent poaching too.
The cheetah is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, with the estimated number of surviving cheetahs in the wild to be around6700. Habitat loss and poaching has contributed to the species’ significant decline in recent years. A number of conservation organizations and state governments have been working together in efforts to save the species.