As Founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) since 1990, Dr. Laurie Marker pioneered new ideas in cheetah conservation and has formed cooperative alliances on behalf of the cheetah that had never before been possible. She is recognized around the world as one of the leading experts on cheetahs, both in the wild and in captivity, and began her in situ research in Namibia, Africa, in 1977, where she conducted ground-breaking research on the re-introduction into the wild of captive born cheetahs. During this initial trip she learned about the conflict between livestock farmers and cheetahs that resulted in hundreds of cheetahs being killed annually. Collaboration in 1982 with Smithsonian Institution and National Cancer Institute researchers resulted in identifying the extremely limited genetic makeup of the cheetah. In 1990, Laurie founded her international not-for-profit organization, CCF, and set up its headquarters in Namibia in 1991. Laurie has led her conservation organization from humble beginnings in a tiny farmhouse in rural Namibia to an unparalleled model for predator conservation.
In the early days, with no one to learn from or lean on, Laurie broke new ground with every new program and effort. Dr. Marker has contributed vital information on cheetah health, reproduction, mortality, evolution, and genetics from her biomedical work on every cheetah that has passed through CCF’s hands (almost 1,000). This huge volume of data gathered for two decades has proven invaluable to in situ as well as captive management situations. Laurie’s efforts to unite a nation, a continent, and the world in the effort to save the cheetah are impressive. As former chair of the Conservancy Association of Namibia, Laurie used education and collaboration with local farmers and landowners to form conservancies to provide thousands of contiguous acres of land where cheetahs can roam safely. She learned that with improved livestock and wildlife management techniques, cheetah, people and livestock can peacefully co-exist. She introduced the concept of livestock guarding dogs to sub-Saharan African livestock farmers and has bred more than 350 Anatolian shepherds to give out to farmers. She is working to restore millions of hectares of cheetah habitat that has been overrun with invasive thorn bushes by harvesting the bush for use as fuel logs and, hopefully soon, a source of biomass for fuel. In addition to many international awards for her work in cheetah conservation, in 2000 she was recognized as one of Time Magazine’s Heroes for the Planet and in 2008 was given the Gold Medal Award from the Society of Women Geographers, the Conservation Medal of Lifetime Achievement Award from the Zoological Society of San Diego, and the Intel Environmental Prize of the 2008 Tech Awards. She was awarded the 2010 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and has been named a finalist for the Indianapolis Prize twice. Laurie completed her doctorate in zoology at the University of Oxford in 2002, has published more than 50 scientific papers, and has been written up in several hundred popular press articles. She has been a member of the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s Cat Specialist Group since 1988, as the vice-chair from 1992 to 2001, and currently as one of their core members. Recent Honors and Awards