Founder and Executive Director of Cheetah Conservation Fund
Dr. Laurie Marker is Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). Having worked with cheetahs since 1974, Laurie set up the not-for-profit Fund in 1990 and moved to Namibia to develop a permanent Conservation Research Centre for the wild cheetah. CCF’s groundbreaking activities are housed at their International Research and Education Centre in the main cheetah habitat of the country. In July 2000, CCF opened a field research station to the public featuring a Visitor’s Centre as well as a Cheetah Museum and Education Centre.
Dr. Marker helped develop the U.S. and international captive program, establishing the most successful captive cheetah-breeding program in North America during her 16 years (1974-1988) at Oregon’s Wildlife Safari in the USA. Laurie first came to Namibia in 1977 when she brought a captive-born, hand-raised cheetah to Namibia to determine if a cheetah must be taught to hunt or if the process was fully instinctual. This was the first-of-its-kind research to better understand if there was a chance for captive-born cheetahs to be re-introduced into the wild. Dr. Marker learned about the conflict between livestock farmers and cheetahs in Namibia, discovering that wild cheetahs needed help. For the next ten years, she continued traveling to Africa to learn more about the wild cheetah’s problems and what could be done to assist wild populations.
In the early 1980’s, with collaborators at the National Zoo and National Cancer Institute (USA), Dr. Marker helped identify the cheetah’s lack of genetic variation, thus causing the species greater problems for survival. In 1988, in collaboration with these two institutions she became the Executive Director of the Centre for New Opportunities in Animal Health Sciences, based at Smithsonian Institution’s Nation al Zoo. She continues to serve as a NOAHS Research Fellow. In 1988 she developed the International Cheetah Studbook, a registry of captive cheetah worldwide, and is the International Studbook Keeper. In 1996 she was made a vice-chair of the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s (SSC) Cat Specialist Group and now serves as a member on the core management group. Among numerous awards, Dr. Marker has been recognized as one of Time Magazine’s Heroes for the Planet in 2000 and received the Zoological Society of San Diego’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. More recently, she was awarded the 2010 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and was a finalist for the BBC World Challenge. In Namibia, her home base, she received the Windhoek Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellowship in 2001, and in 2002 received a special award from the Sanveld Conservancy, signifying Namibia’s farming community’s public acknowledgement of Dr. Marker and CCF’s contributions. In 2002, Laurie received her doctorate from Oxford University, England