Washington, D.C. (May 19, 2017) — Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and author of multiple publications on the cheetah, has written her first children’s book, Chewbaaka – My Life at the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The 32-page, soft-cover book is written from the perspective of Chewbaaka, CCF’s longtime ambassador cheetah that Dr. Marker raised from a 10-day-old orphan that arrived at CCF’s research center in 1995. The book features 25 original, full color illustrations by up-and-coming zoological illustrator Jessie Jordan that pair with Dr. Marker’s narrative, which targets readers age eight and older.
“Engaging young learners about conservation is a key strategy in our CCF mission to save the cheetah from extinction. During international speaking tours and hundreds of presentations at schools in my 27 years leading CCF, I have met thousands of children who are fascinated with big cats, especially the cheetah. Telling the story of my best cheetah friend in Chewbaaka with these beautiful illustrations enables me to connect to so many young audiences,” said Dr. Marker. “Chewbaaka was a very special cheetah that touched my life and many others, and Jessie’s work captures his true spirit.”
Jordan’s watercolor illustrations and Dr. Marker’s text tell Chewbaaka’s life story, from the loss of his siblings to interactions with humans and his canine companion, Koya, an Anatolian shepherd. At CCF, Chewbaaka represented his species to more than 100,000 CCF visitors in his 16-year lifetime, and he appeared in countless documentaries and television shows viewed in many countries around the world. Chewbaaka helped humans gain a better understanding of the ecological importance of the cheetah, and he also helped change Namibian farmers’ perception of cheetahs, encouraging them to peacefully coexist with cheetahs and other predators. One of the most famous animal ambassadors that ever lived, Chewbaaka’s portrait hangs today at National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Jordan first learned of Dr. Marker’s work and Chewbaaka from informational signage included in the Dallas Zoo’s cheetah exhibit. The pair corresponded by email, then met in 2014 at a lecture Dr. Marker gave at the Museum of Natural History in Pacific Grove, California.
“The way she told her story about saving cheetahs and how all the different branches of conservation work are connected completely captivated me. At the end of her talk I asked her if she had a job for me, and she said she was looking for someone to illustrate a children’s book — a true story about an orphaned cheetah cub named Chewbaaka,” said Jordan.
Dr. Marker and Jordan began working together online a few days after meeting, and in 2015 Jordan raised enough money to travel to CCF’s Center in Otjiwarongo, Namibia. Jordan immediately began visualizing the project by looking at Marker’s photo archive to get a sense of Chewbaaka’s life and by walking the CCF grounds.
“I painted in the bush for four weeks. It was an amazing experience,” added Jordan.
Chewbaaka – My Life at the Cheetah Conservation Fund is available online at CCF’s website www.cheetah.org and at Amazon.com. The price of the book with contiguous U.S. shipping is $21.95, and $28.95 for shipments to Hawaii, Alaska and international destinations. Forty percent of proceeds directly support CCF’s conservation and education programs to save the wild cheetah.