Time to Play with the Cheetahs!

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
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Trip End Jul 17, 2013


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Where I stayed
Neuras
What I did
Neuras

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Today was spent at Solitaire, a carnivore conservation site (really a cheetah conservation site).

We were supposed to have an earlier departure (7:30), but ended up not leaving until after 8:00. Kate arrived last night after I had already gone to bed (she was helping at the farm with a group of National Geographic students), and I rode with her to Solitaire. The enrichment creatures were loaded in the back of the vehicles for the cheetahs.

Several dogs greeted us when we approached the property. It was quite apparent that they all knew and loved Matt and Kate (Matt and Kate worked at Solitaire for a few years before Neuras). After we unloaded the vehicles, we got a tour of Solitaire and were left for a bit in the dining area. I wandered around and discovered two rabbits in an enclosure with a couple of guinea pigs, peacocks, and chickens. Seeing them snuggled together made me miss Ralph quite a bit.

After about an hour of hanging out and enjoying the pretty facility, we put the horse meat into our cheetah and octopus and assembled them. They were loaded into the back of a truck and off we went into the cheetah enclosure.

Six cheetahs live in the large enclosure, and, in order to find where the cheetahs were, Matt got out the tracking device that works with their collars. We were taught how to use the device to find each individual cheetah. We found the two boys first, Teddy and Aiyla. They were put together and bonded like brothers to form a small "pack" of their own. They heard the car coming and ran to us. Matt got out to keep the cheetahs away while the boys put their new toy on the ground. Apparently they aren't the most intelligent cats, so the cheetah (as opposed to the octopus with more compartments) was given to them. It took them quite a while to figure out how to get into the body. The head didn’t take too long. Poor teddy managed to get his head stuck into the cardboard head and was looking around with a cheetah mask. We found it incredibly humorous, and I was fortunate enough to take a couple of photos. Matt finally had to help the Teddy and Aiyla open the body. When it was all over Matt gathered all of the box pieces and we were off to find the next cats.

Rusty and Laura, a mother-daughter pair, were found a ways away. Unfortunately though, the boys had chased the cars and followed us to where we found the girls. Matt got out and ran Teddy and Aiyla under some trees quite a distance from where we were with Rusty and Laura. The octopus was set down and Kate monitored while Rusty and Laura (primarily Rusty) had her fun. Laura is a bit more cautious of people than Rusty, so she kept her distance. Finally, part of Ollie got close enough to Laura that she was comfortable having a go at it. Rusty managed to get the octopus head stuck on her head, and she trotted around with it for a bit. By the time Rusty was done, her face was very green from the paint on the cardboard.

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see Spartacus, one of the other cheetahs (I can’t remember the name of the sixth cheetah). Spartacus is a proven “problem cheetah”. He was caught killing livestock without eating them, so essentially just for the thrill of killing. Because this would remain the problem no matter where he was released, and eventually a farmer would kill him, it was decided to keep him in the enclosure.

We headed back to the dining area. I was able to get online and chat with Dorian for a couple of hours as well as post a couple of blogs. It was very nice getting to talk to him. It’s incredible how much I miss him and am looking forward to spending time with him when I get back home. It’s nice to know that I have someone anxiously waiting for my arrival home.

Lunch was hotdogs on a hamburger bun with sweet chili sauce, cheese, and lettuce. Cheetos were the side.

Soon after lunch we headed to the bakery in the town of Solitaire. As we pulled in, I had to laugh at the population sign, which was carved out of wood and had multiple numbers crossed out and recarved. It seems that current population of Solitaire is 92. The bakery supposedly has the world’s best apple pie. I didn’t have apple pie, but did sample cakes, brownies, and a minty dish (some are being saved for the week at the farm).

When we got back to Neuras, we did one final sundowner. It was definitely bittersweet knowing that chaotic life at the farm would resume tomorrow but thinking about how nice of a time we had. Noodle made his rounds to everybody before darting off in attempt to catch some mountain zebra that were a several hundred meters away (he failed).

After we arrived back at the home base, we learned that supper was going to be a braai. Not long after, the fire was started and meat was cooking. We had game sausage and lamb chops. We spent the last evening laughing around the table and drinking. We stayed up together until 9:30 (that’s incredibly late here)! It was an incredible time. I absolutely love everyone that is here with me, and I hope that we remain this close once we get back to the farm. Everyone is coming back except for Pia. I will already be home by the time she returns from Neuras. 
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