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Dr. Laurie Marker

Dr. Laurie Marker: World's Leading Expert on the Cheetah


Dr. Laurie Marker, a research scientist and conservation biologist, is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on the cheetah.

As Founder and Executive Director of Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), Dr. Marker has lead pioneering research, established conservation models and created cooperative alliances on behalf of the cheetah.

Under her leadership, CCF has grown into a world-class cheetah research, education and conservation institution situated near Otjiwarongo, Namibia, on a 100,000-acre, integrated wildlife and livestock private reserve.

 In Her Own Words – TEDx Talks, Portland, Oregon

The Early Days


Dr. Marker began working with cheetahs at Oregon’s Wildlife Safari (1974-1988), where she developed the most successful captive cheetah-breeding program in North America and initiated a first-of-its-kind research project in cheetah re-wilding in Namibia in 1977.

She hypothesized that a captive-born cub could be taught to hunt, and tested this theory with Khayam, a young cheetah she had raised from birth in Oregon. Dr. Marker taught Khayam to hunt, but more importantly found that livestock farmers in Namibia were killing hundreds of cheetahs per year as a perceived threat to their livestock.

This set the stage for her career-long research into cheetah ecology, biology and conservation strategies to mitigate this conflict.

Dr. Marker traveled back and forth from the U.S. for the next 13 years, gathering data from cheetah range countries and forming a network to begin cheetah conservation strategies. Already a species in peril because of shrinking habitat and lack of genetic diversity, livestock farmers’ actions were driving the cheetah even closer toward extinction at an accelerated pace.



The Move to Namibia


In 1990, Dr. Marker moved to Namibia and drove door-to door, talking with farmers. These interactions inspired Dr. Marker to develop highly effective, non-lethal predator control methods. Dr. Marker also stabilized the wild cheetah population in Namibia and helped develop cheetah conservation programs in several other African countries and in Iran, where the last Asiatic cheetahs are found.

After more than a decade of commuting to Namibia, Dr. Marker made the decision to leave her post as Executive Director of the Center for New Opportunities in Animal Health Sciences at the Smithsonian Institution (NOAHS, 1988-1991), relocate to Namibia, and dedicate her life to the long-term sustainability of the species.  

Initially rebuffed by Namibians fearing change, Dr. Marker’s rigorous scientific research, creative conservation programs, and unique holistic philosophy that considers all stakeholders as well as the livelihoods of people sharing the cheetah’s habitat, have gained her the respect of an entire nation. The vital information she has assembled on cheetah health, reproduction, ecology and genetics – taken along with the nearly 1,000 cheetahs she has worked on – has proven invaluable in the management of both wild and captive cheetah populations around the world.


Recognition for Dr. Marker


Dr. Marker earned her DPhil in Zoology from the University of Oxford in the UK. She has published more than 80 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

In 2015, she was recognized with an Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal Award, an E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award, and the Ulysses S. Seal Award for Innovation in Conservation. In 2013, she was named an A.D. White Professor-at-Large with Cornell University.

Dr. Marker has been awarded the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), The Tech Museum of Innovation’s Intel Environmental Prize (2008), and is a two-time finalist for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize.

She was named a Hero for the Planet by TIME Magazine and has been featured in Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discover and The New York Times, as well as participating in numerous television and radio interviews around the world.  

Follow the links below to learn more about each of CCF’s innovative programs:

Cheetah Care & Research

Genetics, Health and Reproduction of the Cheetah

Educational Programs:  for Students and Farmers 

Habitat Restoration

International Collaboration and Training

Illegal Trafficking of Cheetahs