Cheetah conflict with smallstock (goats and sheep) farmers is usually relatively straightforward to solve. The placement of a livestock guarding dog (LGD), raised and trained at CCB’s demonstration farm or with one of our model farmers, usually puts a stop to any predation that occurs on the farm and farmers who receive a trained dog are incredibly grateful – unsurprising given that 87% of farmers experience no loss after receiving a trained LGD. CCB’s demonstration farm has the capacity to raise and train approximately 20 LGD puppies each year. With the development of our model farmers as LGD training outposts, we have been able to scale up this model to reach more farmers with more LGDs. We are now capable of placing around 50 puppies each year to farmers in need.
This year, unfortunately, our ability to place puppies was interrupted by a national outbreak of canineparvovirus (CPV). Although dogs affected with CPV can survive if treated promptly, most infected puppies in Botswana are unable to access the veterinary care needed to pull them through and even then, there are low chances of survival. This year, it broke our staffs’ hearts when a total of 24 puppies came to our demonstration farm infected with CPV and later perished due to this disease, despite having had their first two 5-in-1 vaccinations at the shelter and thorough veterinary checks before arriving. On the advice of our veterinarians, we were forced to suspend LGD training at our demonstration farm to allow the elimination of the disease from the soil in the livestock boma and surrounds. This greatly reduced our ability to help farmers with conflict by placing LGDs with their herds.
Thankfully, our model farmers were able to continue to train puppies. Although they still experienced some loss to CPV, their puppies did not seem as badly affected, and they were able to train 13 LGD puppies which have been placed with farmers this month. We have taken measures to mitigate against the risk of another outbreak at the demonstration farm and we will be planning our new demo farm at our new CCB camp with concreted, undercover area to quarantine new puppies on arrival.. We are also investigating opportunities to increase vaccination campaigns for dogs in our target areas to improve protection against CPV and other dangerous diseases like distemper and rabies. These three diseases (out of the six diseases covered by regular dog vaccines in Botswana) pose a threat to LGDs, to street dogs, wildlife and even humans in our area and we are going to do our best to make sure that our LGDs, livestock and cheetahs are protected moving forward. We have high hopes that 2023 will be a brighter and disease-free year!