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Friday, October 07, 2005

Audi Donates Car in Fight to Save Cheetahs

MENDHAM, NJ — Old Mill Road resident Susan Babson is so serious about saving the endangered cheetahs that she is taking her conservation campaign on the road across the country.

The cheetah, the big cat known for its speed and stealth, is endangered by African farmers who kill the animals to protect their livestock. Conservationists say the cheetah could become extinct in 20 years.

As lands near the cheetah habitat become developed, staying in the wild has become difficult, experts said. About 12,000 wild cheetahs live in Africa today, down from 100,000 in 1900, said Babson.

Babson, a trustee for the Cheetah Conservation Fund, said Audi of America on Main Street has donated a red coupe, painted by New York artist Lynn Chase.

Babson is driving the donated car across the country to raise awareness and money to save the cheetahs.

The red coupe sports a leaping cheetah on its door and a black and rust border of cheetah spots across the chassis.

Babson said on Friday, Sept. 30, that the tour began Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Doris Duke estate in Hillsborough with a fundraising party. The tour will go through Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, New York, Philadelphia, Middleburg, Va., Miami, Fla, Atlanta, Ga., Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, Scottsdale, Ariz., San Francisco and Los Angeles, Calif.

Marker’s approach to conservation is unusual. Marker said cheetahs should co-exist with people. The credo is: “We can live together.”

She wants to teach innovative techniques, such as educating farmers on how to train dogs to guard wildlife against cheetahs. Other incentives to conserve wild cheetahs include endorsing “cheetah friendly” beef that is certified by the Conservancy Association of Namibia. Cheetah friendly beef is raised by ranchers who agree not to kill cheetahs.

Two thirds of the populations of cheetah in 28 countries will grow extinct unless people understand how to co-exist with the animal, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund website.

“I want people to have years of understanding and knowledge about the cheetah instead of just thinking the animal needs to be eliminated. The cheetah’s problem is humans. In the last 100 years, humans have reduced the population,” Marker said.


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