By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKC Thunder star Enes Kanter will be the Honorary Chairman of the 3rd annual OKC Meetah Cheetah party this month. The event will also feature Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and CEO of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).
Also attending the party will be “Zemba” the cheetah, one of Jack Hanna’s frequent partners on television shows. Zemba will be traveling to Oklahoma City by road with a team from the Columbus Zoo, where she lives.
Turkish livestock guarding dogs originally brought Kanter and Marker together. In addition, Kanter’s father is a genetics professor in Istanbul, Turkey, and Marker (Ph.D. Oxford) has done genomic research on cheetahs for over 30 years with renowned geneticist Steve O’Brien.
The 2016 Meetah Cheetah party will be held on October 29 at businessman Bob Meinders’ “Cheetah Penthouse,” 16 NE 2nd Street, in downtown Oklahoma City from 7 – 11:30 p.m. Guests will enjoy drinks, a buffet dinner, silent and live auctions, and the opportunity to interact with the cheetah, Marker and Kanter.
Patrons will be able to have their photograph taken with all three at the rooftop patron party. Tickets are $150 and Patrons $250.
Call Mary McCutcheon at 405-755-3311 or buy online at cheetah.org. under Dr. Marker’s Fall Tour.
The goal of the Cheetah Conservation Fund chapter is to educate the public about endangered species, and what can be done to support their habitat
As the gold standard of wildlife conservation organizations, CCF has doubled the number of wild cheetahs in Namibia, where it is headquartered.
Early in its founding, Marker determined one of the greatest threats to the cheetah in the wild is human-wildlife conflict. Over 90 percent of cheetahs live outside protected management areas, where they live alongside human communities. Most of these in Africa are commercial and communal farming communities raising cows, sheep and goats.
CCF’s well-known Livestock Guarding Program uses Turkish Livestock Guarding dogs, specifically the 5,000 year-old breeds of Anatolian Shepherds and Kangals.
Working with local farmers in Namibia, CCF investigates and develops wildlife management techniques and solutions.
The organization has donated over 600 puppies to local farmers. As they grow up, the dogs “bond with the herd and use their imposing presence and loud bark to scare away potential predators,” according to a press release regarding the event. The dogs, along with the founding of Future Farmers of Africa to teach best practices livestock management by CCF, has reduced the number of wild cheetahs shot each by farmers by several hundred each year and allowed the population to double.
OKC Thunders players, Kanter and Steven Adams are known as the “Stache Brothers.” Together, they have their own t-shirts donning mustaches. Kanter is an active participant in OKC Thunder’s community projects.
“I am so happy that CCF has made this connection with Enes Kanter and he will be a great addition to our annual fund raiser in Oklahoma City,” said Marker. “I saw him play on television when I was in OKC last spring and look forward to attending the Thunder’s regular season opening game the night before the cheetah party.”
After setting many records with the Utah Jazz, in February 2015 Kanter was traded to the OKC Thunder. His hobbies include hanging out with teammates, going out to dinner and playing video games
“This is the third year that Oklahoma City has generously supported the Cheetah Conservation Fund to help protect cheetahs,” said Mary Blankenship Pointer, event committee member. “It is an honor for Enes Kanter to serve as our honorary chair for this important cause. A special thank you to event chair Vicki Gourley for organizing this wonderful evening.”