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Cheetah Shepherds is the story of how wild cheetahs became endangered and how one woman mobilized a community to save them.

Cheetah Shepherds: Hope for Cheetah Conservation

Namibia. Near the coast of South Africa. The sky is blue. Low in the long, brown grass a cheetah stares out. The cat is quiet and unmoving, then makes her move. Her slender body on the dry open plains running: the fastest land mammal in the world.

© Kate Simerly
© Kate Simerly

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About The Project

Cheetah Shepherds is the amazing, hopeful story of people learning to live in harmony with cheetahs in an ever-shrinking world. 

With the help of an innovative conservation program and some very special dogs, Dr. Laurie Marker and the Cheetah Conservation Fund helped change the way cheetahs and local Namibian ranchers live together. Known as the Livestock Guard Dog Program, Dr. Marker's project has become a success story for local communities in Africa. Through telling their story we hope to spread the message of innovative wildlife conservation that's “out-of-the-box.”

But we're going further than just that. After wrapping up our filming, we'll be putting together an educational outreach tour, taking the film to schools and sanctuaries around the United States to spark conversations with children and animal lovers. Our biggest question? How can CCF’s innovative wildlife conservation model inspire people to change things in their own communities?

Saving cheetahs takes a village (photo courtesy of ©CCF)
Saving cheetahs takes a village (photo courtesy of ©CCF)

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Why Cheetah Conservation Matters

“Over the last century, 90 percent of the cheetah population in the world has been killed, and it is now the most endangered cat in Africa.” -- UNITED NATIONS, May 6, 2010

About 10,000-12,500 cheetahs are estimated to remain in 24 to 26 African countries and less than 100 animals in Iran. Namibia has the world's largest number of free-ranging cheetahs with about 3,000 animals.

Cheetahs are a Keystone species. That means that cheetahs play a critical role in maintaining the structure and health of the ecological community. Simply put: Remove the cheetahs and the imbalance could lead to the collapse of the entire ecosystem. With less and less wild land and natural prey available in Africa today, cheetahs and other predators sometimes turn to livestock as an alternate food source. As a result, many farmers engage in retaliatory killings. This means that cheetahs - already the most endangered cat in Africa - are rapidly approaching extinction.

Quick Facts About What Makes Cheetahs So Cool:

·       They're fast! Cheetahs are the fastest mammal on land and can reach speeds of 70 miles (97 or 113 kilometers) an hour over short distances.

·       When a cheetah is running at top speed, it covers about 23 feet (7.3 meters) in only four footfalls.

·       Cheetah mothers spend a long time teaching their young how to hunt small live antelopes are brought back to the cubs and released so they can chase and catch them. Unlike most other cats, the cheetah usually hunts during daylight, preferring early morning or early evening, but is also active on moonlit nights.

·       Cheetahs were so popular that Akbar the Great of India was said to have kept a stable of about 1,000.

·       The genus name, Acinonyx, means "no-move-claw" in Greek, while the species name, jubatus, means "maned" in Latin, a reference to the mane found in cheetah cubs. It is the only cat that cannot completely retract its claws. Even when retracted, the claws remain visible and are used for grip during the cheetah's acceleration and maneuvering.

© Kate Simerly
© Kate Simerly

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Who Is Dr. Laurie Marker?

Dr. Laurie Marker has given hope to the future of cheetahs through creating the Livestock Guard Dog Program, which has provided an incentive for protecting wildlife by developing ecologically and economically sustainable development programs with local villages.

Dr. Laurie Marker:

“The passion that Kate Simerly and her team exudes will make their chronicle of CCF's mission to save the wild cheetah a truly remarkable tale. Please donate and help us spread the word about the remarkable cheetah!”

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When Dr. Marker first came to Namibia to research wild cheetahs, she quickly realized that her efforts to study and conserve these animals were in conflict with the way local people felt. She spent many years talking one-on-one with Namibian farmers to understand how the needs of the people and animals could be met simultaneously. The Livestock Guarding Dog Program was born out of these conversations.

Dr. Marker's research revealed that livestock losses were substantially reduced or eliminated by introducing Anatolian Shepherds to guard local ranchers’ livestock. Originally bred in Turkey, Anatolian Shepherds are world-renowned for their size, strength, and willingness to fight to the death to protect the herds they watch over. 

Puppies grow up with the herd and protect them like family. © CCF
Puppies grow up with the herd and protect them like family. © CCF

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By introducing Anatolian Shepherds as the foundation of a conservation strategy, Dr. Marker not only changed the way cheetahs preyed on livestock, she introduced economic incentives for the farmers to stop retaliatory killings of cheetahs - providing 100% paid expenses for the care of the dogs. This conservation strategy is not only a win-win for cheetahs, conservationists, and the ranchers, it has proven successful enough for adoption by other predator conservation programs, such as wolf conservation in North America.

© Kate Simerly
© Kate Simerly

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By Supporting The Film, Where Does My Money Go?

We have the expertise and we have the passion to tell this story. We just don't have the funds.

Your Kickstarter pledges will send us to Namibia to film the conservation in action, cover production costs, and send the film to nationwide screenings and conversations. In short, you’ll be a key player in promoting wildlife conservation.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how your pledge will bring this film to life:

·       Travel costs to Namibia

·       Vaccinations and in-country travel

·       Additional production equipment rental fees

·       DVD distribution

·       Entry fees to nationwide screenings

Find out more on Facebook and Twitter

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ABOUT US:

KATE SIMERLY - DIRECTOR/PRODUCER

Cheetah Shepherds is spearheaded by Kate Simerly, a documentary filmmaker and graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. As a director of multiple wildlife documentaries and PSA's, Kate brings extreme passion to every project she tackles. Her 2009 short film The Elephant in the Room helped to increase awareness about the Asian elephant program at the Los Angeles Zoo.

"Working with Kate during the filming of her Asian Elephant documentary, I can attest to her skill and commitment to promote wild life conservation through the positive and compelling stories she tells."                                                            - Jennie Becker, Curator of Mammals, Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

katesimerly.com

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SEAN SIMERLY - SOUND ENGINEER

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Sean has always been intrigued by the complexities and interrelatedness of film and music. As the Audio Director of the University of Southern California's Department of Performance Venues and part of the Music Industry and Cinematic Arts Program at the USC,, Sean has years of experience in sound engineering and is ready to bring the cheetah’s plight to life through sound and film. He plans to create his own sound and film production company.

www.seansimerly.com

BOBBY FARRINGTON - PRODUCER

Bobby is a co-founder at Microryza, a science and technology startup based in Seattle, WA. With a focus on media, emerging tech and producing digital content, Bobby has worked for media companies like Vice, VBS.TV, KEXP, and The Seattle International Film Festival.

about.me/bobbyfarrington

Thank you for your support!

Kate, Sean, and Bobby

FAQ

  • Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects.
 By letting friends, family and other conservationist finance this project, we can make this film quickly and independently. Also, Kickstarter uses a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully funded or no money changes hands.
 That means your financial backing is even more important. If we don't get all of the funds, we don't get any money.

    Last updated:
  • For more info or to keep up to date, follow Cheetah Shepherds on:

    http://cheetahshepherds.tumblr.com/

    http://www.facebook.com/CheetahShepherds

    https://twitter.com/#%21/wehefilm

    Or email us at cheetahshepherds@gmail.com

    Last updated:
  • Cheetahs do not roar like lion or tigers, but are quite vocal, making a unique, bird-like sound called a “chirrup” when they’re excited. Mothers use the same sound to call their cubs. They also purr, growl, snarl, hiss, cough, moan, and bleat. Researchers have learned that, during mating season, cheetahs make a unique sound called a “stutter bark.”

    Last updated:
  • The Cheetah Conservation Fund

    Otjiwarongo, Namibia

    https://maps.google.com/maps…

    Last updated:
  • Your financial backing will send us to Namibia to film the conservation in action, cover production costs, and send the film nationwide to schools and zoos for screenings and conversation. In short, you’ll be a key player in promoting wildlife conservation!

    Here’s a quick breakdown of how your pledge will bring this film to life:

    + Travel costs to Namibia
    + Vaccinations and in-country travel
    + DVD distribution
    + Entry fees to nationwide screenings
    + Travel for screening the film at schools and US zoos across the country

    Last updated:
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    The eternal gratitude of everyone involved in the making of this film. If Cheetahs could talk, you know they'd thank you too. Oh, and you get your very own Facebook and Twitter shout-out!

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    At the $10 level you'll get a collection of digital high resolution cheetah postcards to share with your friends and family!

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    At the $15 level you get an original, one-off poster of the film and your name on the big screen credits under "Kickstarter Donors." Signed by the filmmakers, this poster will look extremely attractive in your home. Your name in the credits just feels good, man.

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    Break out the popcorn and get ready to receive your own DVD of the film, delivered straight to your door before it can be seen by the general public! Includes the original film soundtrack and audio interviews with Dr. Marker and other cheetah conservationists, plus above gifts.

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    What inspires a wildlife filmmaker? Find out when you give $50 and receive a special book from Kate's personal library with a handwritten inscription inside thanking you for your incredible generosity!

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    Things get interesting as you receive an invitation to a special Cheetah Screening Party in Los Angeles, California. Meet the crew, party with other wildlife conservationists and talk about how important cheetah conservation is. Then go home and enjoy all the other gifts too.

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    We'll take some personal time and film a very personal "thank you" video deep in the wilderness of Namibia, just for you. Because you're awesome. Plus, you get all gifts from our above rewards levels.

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    Join the film's Director on a Group Photo Workshop and Tour around the Los Angeles Zoo (LA) or Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle)! Learn how to take great shots of the fastest land animal on earth (trust us, cheetahs are fast). Plus your name becomes immortalized in the film's credits under “Premier Kickstarter Donors.”

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    Join the team for a special behind-the-scenes experience. Be the first to see uncut footage and learn how a cheetah documentary comes together!

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    This is big time. At this level, you're integral to the creation of this film and the conservation of cheetahs. You'll be an Executive Producer for the film and receive an opportunity to personally meet Dr. Marker and a real, live cheetah ambassador!

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