The first step in solving any problem is recognizing it exists. From CCF, I began International Cheetah Day in cooperation with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) four years ago as a way to bring awareness to the plight of the cheetah, as Africa's most endangered big cat. With fewer than 10,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild, the species has reached its tipping point. If we don't act to address this problem now -- meaning within the next five to 10 years -- there may not be enough left to save the species from extinction.
I don't mean to come off sounding like an alarmist, but this is the hard truth. The cheetah's situation is dire. Human development is the reason the cheetah population has dropped from 100,000 to 10,000 over the past 100 years. Loss of natural habitat exacerbated now by climate change overarching the biggest problem, the conflict between livestock farmers and cheetahs which are forced to share a shrinking African landscape. And, the majority of cheetahs are not found in protected game reserves, due to high numbers of other large predators that steal their food and kill their young. These are the main causes for the cheetahs' population decline. But just as humans have threatened the cheetah, we are also the species with the power to save them. For this, we have reason to hope.
Hope comes in the form of our youth. Today's young people are more tuned in to their environment and are more passionate about conservation issues than generations that have come before them. That is why this year we've decided to target our International Cheetah Day message to young minds around the world and the adults who hold influence with them at home, in schools and in their communities. Educational institutions and zoos across the world, from the United States, as well as schools in Namibia, Canada, France, the UK and Australia, are all taking part by sharing classroom presentations and activities designed to inspire young learners. On December 4th, student groups from Namibia are scheduled to visit CCF's Center and share the legacy that Namibia is the Cheetah Capitol of the World, an unprecedented response within our home country. This is very exciting.
10 Ways to Celebrate International Cheetah Day
We have come up with some simple ways you can recognize International Cheetah Day with the young (and older) people in your life. These are easy, fun suggestions to engage young minds and spark conversation about the importance of biodiversity and maintaining a healthy, balanced planet. Something as seemingly silly as making a cheetah mask will go a long way in setting the foundation for more serious involvement with conservation issues as the child develops. You can take one of our suggestions, or feel free to come up with your own. The most important thing is that you make the effort to engage.
1. Become an honorary CCF wildlife ambassador. Tell your friends and family about the cheetah.
2. Show solidarity through fashion. Wear cheetah print (a single accessory or head to toe)!
3. Swap your online profile photo for a cheetah.
4. Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag, #savethecheetah.
5. Download our Cheetah Activity Packet designed for elementary school students. It includes cheetah facts, a word search puzzle, stickers and a Certificate of Cheetah Achievement!
6. Watch and share a special International Cheetah Day video message from Jeff Corwin.
7. Just for kids (or maybe not): download our template to make your own way-cool cheetah mask. It's fun to impersonate a cheetah! (mask template is in CCF's Cheetah Activity Packet)
8. Wear said way-cool cheetah mask to our all-day Virtual Cheetah Party on Facebook. Post photos so everyone can see your best cheetah face (or email us the photo at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll post it on our online gallery).
9. Get some stylish cheetah gear from the CCF Store at Café Press so you can spark conversation about the cheetah all year 'round.
10. Make a donation to support cheetah conservation in the wild or sponsor a resident cheetah from CCF's sanctuary.
CCF is at a crossroads. Over the past 24 years, we've developed the knowledge and experience to permanently solve the cheetah conservation crisis. Our programs are working, and we can see the difference we are making. But at the same time, unless people, young and old, commit to carrying the responsibility, the cheetah could disappear from the Earth. For the sake of the cheetah and the health of our planet, it is imperative that we raise an army of conservationists with our next generation. Become a member of the Conservation Army!
If you have young people in your life, please talk with them about how important our world's wildlife is and help them grow the Conservation Army. And... share CCF's information! If we are going to save the cheetah, first we need to change the world so that animals like the cheetah have a place to live within it. Many of our African national friends know this and need friends from around the world to help them in this mission! Recognizing International Cheetah Day is one way to start.