Home / Spiffy's Blog / Dr. Laurie Marker: Creating a World Where Cheetahs and Humans Can Co-exist
Dr. Laurie Marker: Creating a World Where Cheetahs and Humans Can Co-exist

Dr. Laurie Marker: Creating a World Where Cheetahs and Humans Can Co-exist


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Dr. Laurie Marker, founder and executive director, Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).

Spiffy: It’s wonderful to meet you, Laurie. I’m curious about the challenges CCF is addressing. What can you tell me?

Laurie: Thanks for having me, Spiffy. Here at CCF, we have a holistic approach to conservation, working on a variety of topics and projects, with the end goal of creating a world where cheetahs and humans can co-exist. For example, we mitigate human-wildlife conflict using livestock guarding dogs and farmer training, have a successful education program with outreach in schools all over Namibia, and have school kids visiting CCF's research and education center. We have a very successful ecology department where we also host Namibian and international students, a veterinarian clinic, a genetics lab, a cafe and lodge, a creamery, a working model farm with goats and sheep, and, last but not least, a sanctuary for cheetahs, that either stay in human care or can be released back into the wild.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Laurie: When starting to work at the Wildlife Safari in Oregon, I became interested in the cheetahs I worked with and realized fairly quickly that there was not much known about cheetahs. During my time at the Wildlife Safari, I developed a successful breeding program (studbook) and was able to bring a captive-born cheetah to Namibia in the 1970s to teach her how to hunt. When in Namibia, I realized that farmers were killing cheetahs in tremendous numbers. I realized nobody was doing anything to save the cheetah, so I dedicated my life to saving this species and moved to Namibia in 1990 (after its independence) to start CCF.

Spiffy: What would you say is the impact of your work?

Laurie: CCF’s mission is to be the internationally recognized center of excellence in the conservation of cheetahs and their ecosystems. CCF will work with all stakeholders to develop best practices in research, education, and land use to benefit all species, including people. CCF’s vision is to see a world in which cheetahs live and flourish in coexistence with people within a sustainable system that is protective of the environment, socially responsible, and economically viable.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make?

Laurie: We have recently opened up our Cheetah Rescue and Conservation Centre (CRCC) in Somaliland, where we now have spacious enclosures for the over 90 cheetahs we have rescued from the illegal cheetah trade.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Laurie—it’s been an honor!

Dr. Laurie Marker studied agriculture, enology, and viticulture in Napa, California. She started a winery and small dairy goat farm and began working at the Wildlife Safari in Oregon in 1974. Dr. Marker helped develop the US and international captive breeding program for cheetahs and first traveled to South West Africa (now Namibia) for research into the rewilding of captive-born cheetahs. Dr. Marker’s research proved that cheetahs held in captivity could be taught to hunt but, more importantly, it was during this time she discovered livestock farmers were killing wild cheetahs by the hundreds. Without intervention, the future of the species would be in jeopardy. For this reason, in 1990 Dr. Marker decided to found the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and move to Namibia. (First published on the Ladderworks website on December 7, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.