Its a tough life! And I got to play with the cubs
Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
18Trip End Jun 30, 2009
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Where I stayed
Cheetah Conservation Fund
The conference and workshop was over on Saturday and all of the other attendees went home. I have stayed on at the CCF to do some of my work. I’m now staying in a lovely little Rondavel with a wonderful view of the Waterberg Plateau, and the most amazing view of the sunsets, and stars in the southern hemisphere I ever remember seeing. The shooting stars are frequent, long and bright. In fact I slept outside last night just to lay and look up at the stars. My plan is to stay here until Wednesday, when a 4x4 rental car will be dropped off for me early Thursday AM. I plan on going way up north, close to the border with Angola to a Himba village I visited 9 years ago, stay over night at the village, then drive over to Etosha and spend the night there and then head back to the CCF to pick up my trail cameras and then drive to Windhoek on Sunday 28th to fly back to Jo’berg. SADNESS
So here is what I’ve been up to. As usual the pictures and video (if I can upload it) say more than my words. But I have two stories that could only come from Africa and I think illustrate why I am so endeared by this amazing place.
Probably the highlight has been getting up close and person with 3 cheetah cubs. Although they are still cubs, they are quite big, not tiny little fuzz-ball cubs. The story of these cubs is fascinating, only something that could come from Africa really. Here is their story: Local farmers have livestock, cows and goats mostly. Although their attitudes are changing, many still consider predators like cheetah vermin and shot them on sight because they fear livestock losses. In fact this human-wildlife conflict is the number one reason why cheetah number have declined so much over the past 100 years. So a farmer saw a cheetah and shot her. When he went over to her dead body, he noticed movement in her abdomen. Right then, he cut her open basically performing a caesarian section in the field and out come 4 cubs, 3 of which were still alive. He then called the CCF who hand raised the cubs into the beautiful animals you see me petting in the video (or pictures if I can’t upload the video over the slow connection)
Being in with the cubs was of course brilliant, just amazing. They are very playful, purred loudly as you petted them, but aren’t as fond of men as they are women. They were raised by Laurie, Anne (CCF genecist) and Kate (one of the cheetah keepers) so are really attached to them. One of them very sneakily stalked me from the back, twice, but was told off before she pounced. They can’t be released into the wild and are being trained to act as future ambassador cats.
Ok, so here is my second story. One of the local conference attendees was joined by her husband in the last few days. He was this big burly Africaans guy called Chris. Very fun and outgoing and he had part of his left arm missing. Of course when you see this you wonder what happened, but you don’t come right out and ask. It wasn’t until the party on the last night, after we had all had a few beers that the story came out. He was a game ranger in Kruger Park in South Africa. It was a hot evening just after dark and he decided to cool off in a dam
I went out and did a fence check with Matt the cheetah keeper the other day. This is just to make sure that the fences are intact as occasionally animals like oryx and warthogs damage them and of course they don’t want the cheetahs to get out. Their enclosures are huge so it takes a while to drive the fence lines. Matt drove and I did the gates. When you drive into the enclosures, very often the cheetahs come up to the gate with the expectation of being fed (today was Sunday and they aren’t fed on Sundays). In this case 4 females came right up to the gate. So I get out of the "backie" (pick-up) with, a large stick. Just 2 meters away is one of the cats, and 3 more a little further away, with nothing between me and the cheetah except for the stick
So we did the fence checks, finished the last run inside the cheetah enclosure when Matt said, I think we have a flat. Sure enough, we had a flat tire. OK, you change it and I’ll stand guard I said, or I’ll change it and you can stand guard. Matt said no, although the cats are OK when you are standing up, if you crouch as you would to change a tire, they go into hunting mode and might see you as prey. So we had to drive out of the enclosure to change the tire.
So the last highlight was Etosha Park. We spent a day in the park watching wildlife and the picture say way more than I can.
I captured some great shots and video on my trail cameras Ð a leopard, two cheetah, an aardwolf, and other animals. I may need to post these videos later because the internet connection so slow.
I should add that I have posted a picture of Cyril and myself. Notice that I’m wearing an England shirt. Cyril is a staunch South African rugby fan, so of course I just had to post this picture so Cyril can show all of his friends!! Also the person in the shot with Chris is from Iran and works on their tiny population of just 100 cheetah and his name, is Mohammed Ali, seriously that’s his name!