Scientists in the Field: Saving Cheetahs One at a Time

A while back I reviewed The Dolphins of Shark Bay, part of the Scientists in the Field series. It was one of the best non-fiction books for kids about animals I’ve ever read. Today I’m reviewing another title in that series, one that is sure to intrigue and educate animal lovers of all ages.


© Copyright – Cover image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat

  • Targeted Audience: Upper Elementary & Middle School (Ages 10-14)
  • Genre: Non-Fiction Science Book
  • Author: Sy Montgomery
  • Photographer: Nic Bishop
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers
  • Publication Date: April 1, 2014
  • Binding: Hard Cover
  • Dimensions: 11.3″ x .9.3″
  • Printing: Full Color
  • Length: 80 Pages
  • Retail: $16.95
  • ISBN:978-0547815497

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na_bluJourney to Namibia, Home of the Fastest Land Animal on Earth

The Southwest African nation of Namibia is home to the headquarters of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a group that has rescued more than 900 cheetahs since its founding in 1990. It was established by Dr. Laurie Marker, who is the Executive Director of this organization,. Together with her many volunteers they work to protect the cheetahs’ natural habitat and and protect their survival. These animals are being threatened by extinction; the number of cheetahs in the world  has gone from over 100,000 in the year 1900 to less than 10,000 today. A survey done by the CCF discovered that close to 80% of cheetahs’ death were caused by people killing them – mainly livestock farmers. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on earth, and Chasing Cheetahs teaches us why it is so important to protect them and how it can be done.

Image of Namibia map in the Public Domain

“A cheetah can go from 0-44 mph in three strides. Each stride may carry a cheetah twenty-five feet.”

One Step at a Time

Chasing Cheetahs tells the story of how a woman who once started a winery came to dedicate her life to saving cheetahs. After establishing CCF, Dr. Marker 9780547815497-chasingcheetahs_zoomstarted her efforts to save cheetahs by talking to farmers. She educated them about the importance of the preservation of these big cats in the hopes that they would no longer kill them when they wandered on their properties. Other efforts include the use of large Kangal dogs, to protect cheetahs by warding off predators. Goats are used to train the dogs. Farmers are also encouraged to raise goats for milk to help increase their incomes.

© Copyright – Inside image of Dr. Laurie by Nic Bishop courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

We learn how ecologists work to teach Dr. Laurie and her staff about how Cheetahs use the natural landscape – from where they poop to how they choose the trees they climb. The animal’s poop is studied by scientists and is even cooked; the DNA of the cheetah is uncovered to better understand these animals in the hopes that it will increase their chances of survival.

Image of a cheetah in the Public Domain

What This Book Teaches

sy-and-cheetahChasing Cheetahs educates readers in a most fascinating way about the importance of the survival of cheetahs as a species; as predators they play an important role in the circle of life, controlling populations of antelope. These beautiful creatures don’t attack humans, and rather than be feared, they deserve to be respected. Children learn that each of the earth’s natural habitats serve their own purposes, and it’s not okay for humans to destroy those natural environments.

© Copyright – Inside image of the author with a cheetah by Nic Bishop courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Why You Should Buy This Book

The photographs in Chasing Cheetah by Nic Bishop are outstanding, offering us a glorious glimpse into Namibia’s cheetah habitat; it’s the next best thing to being there. The lessons to be learned about the way cheetahs live and are being threatened are thought provoking. If this one species of wild animals is at risk at the hand of humans then we must ask what other animals do we adversely affect? What are the consequences? How can we change this? Reading about Dr. Laurie Marker and her journey to save cheetahs is priceless. What children will take away from this book is that one person with great passion (and a good education) can accomplish goals that – while at first may seem impossible – are not only attainable, but can make a huge and lasting difference in this world.

montgomery$syAbout the Author

Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, newspaper columnist, scriptwriter and radio commentator who writes award-winning books for children as well as adults. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire.  Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop won the Sibert Medal in 2011 for their collaborative work on Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot, another Scientist in the Field title.

© Copyright – Image of the author courtesy of Sy Montgomery

About the Photographernicbishop

Nic Bishop, started taking photographs at the age of nine. His family moved around a lot when he was a child and his exposure to many different types of natural wonders during those travels piqued his interest.  He later earned a doctorate in the biological sciences, and today combines his love of nature with his large collection of cameras and takes photographs all over the world for children’s non-fiction books. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

© Copyright – Image of the photographer courtesy of Nic Bishop

Further Learning

  1. Download the Discussion and Activity Guide for this book.
  2. Learn more about the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
  3. Visit your local zoo to observe a cheetah in person.
  4. Visit National Geographic for Kids to learn more about cheetahs.
  5. Find Namibia on a map.
  6. Research with children the college undergraduate and graduate education required to become a biologist like Dr. Laurie.
  7. Encourage children to learn to take photographs of animals.

Be sure to check out the many other outstanding titles in the Scientists in the Field Series.

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  1. Pingback: The Lives and Work of Park Scientists | Smart Books for Smart KidsSmart Books for Smart Kids

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