By Yoon Joung Lee
Dr. Laurie Marker is one of the world's leading experts on Cheetahs. She was born in 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. In 1990, she got her Bachelor’s of Science in biology from Eastern Oregon State University, and earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in zoology from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom in 2003.
However, her career with Cheetahs began when she started working at an accredited zoological park called Wildlife Safari, in Winston Oregon, in 1974. She started as a veterinary clinic assistant and quickly became the clinic supervisor. There, she first met the first captive breeding cheetahs.
Since then, she has studied on the re-introduction of captive-born cheetahs into the wild and helped identify reasons behind their limited genetic makeup. She is also considered the world’s top expert on cheetahs’ health, reproduction, mortality and genetics.
In her early work, she conducted various research on captive breeding of cheetahs at a zoological park in the United States. The results of her groundbreaking studies led her to fieldwork in Namibia.In 1990, she founded the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund as a not-for-profit organization, which is one of two recipients of the 2010 Tyler Prize for environmental achievement. In this organization, she faced complex problems affecting cheetahs in their native habitat. This organization teams with biologists and other researchers across the world to address the problems, of cheetah predation on livestock and wildlife habitat.The first problem they recognized was a perception by Namibian farmers of cheetahs. The routinely kill cheetahs because cheetahs were seen as threats to their livestock.The second problem they saw was the spread of invasive thorny bushes across the region of Namibia. These bushes block the sight of cheetahs and limit their ability to see animals they are hunting.
To solve these two vital issues, she has placed hundreds of guard dogs to protect livestock herds as a non-lethal way to reduce cheetah predation. She also contributed to create an economic enterprise as she cleared thorny bushes from the landscape to process into fuel. Her projects achieved a great result and reputation on Cheetah Conservation Fund among rural Namibians. She was also honored for eco-friendly way to incorporate the knowledge and economic interests of the region.
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