Monday, June 10, 2013

Hanging Out with the Cheetahs at CCF

As I said before, at the end of Norah’s visit we went to the Cheetah Conservation Foundation. It was a really cool experience! It is located about 30 kilometers outside Otjiwarango on a gravel road. We were lucky to find a taxi driver who would brave his battered car over these not-so-nice roads, and we arrived just as it opened. Another surprise was getting the Peace Corps discount, meaning we actually didn’t pay for our visit at all aside from the initial taxi ride! The man working there took us to the information center, where we were overwhelmed with everything you need to know about cheetahs and more for about an hour. I had no idea how little I really knew about them! Honestly I didn’t even know how to tell a cheetah and a leopard apart [in case you don’t either, it’s the markings on the face that are the easiest indicators of a cheetah!] Namibia has the largest concentration of cheetahs in the world, but they continue to be threatened by farmers who believe they are eating their livestock, and often kill them to stop the perceived threat. CCF is working with these farmers closely, educating them and making themselves available to pick up problem cheetahs on the farms to relocate them elsewhere in the bush. It’s a really interesting issue, and I’ve actually become really good friends with a girl who is doing her PhD on large carnivore-farmer conflict in the south closer to Luderitz, where there is no organization doing work like CCF, so the animals just end up getting killed to protect the livestock.

After getting our share of interesting facts we were led on a tour of the enclosures. CCF aims to rehabilitate cheetahs and release them back into the wild, so a lot of the land they own and have for the cheetahs is inaccessible to the public. Having people around all the time would be detrimental to cheetahs getting back out into the bush. However, a fair amount of the cheetahs at CCF it seems were brought to them when still cubs, before they had been with their mothers long enough to survive on their own in the wild. Because these cheetahs were never trained how to hunt by their mothers they can never be released into the wild, they wouldn’t make it. So these cheetahs are the ‘ambassadors’ to the Foundation, and have grown up with human interaction. Their names are really funny - one group that came in had a cub with a scar on its face, so the three of them are named Harry, Ron, and Hermione! We got to see these adorable cats up close [as close as you can get from behind a gate], and they gave us some great poses. We were also lucky that we were still there for the cheetah feeding, when a couple of the volunteers at CCF gave us even more information about their eating habits and we watched them dig into some fresh meat and organs! Overall a great visit, and well worth the effort to get off the B1 highway!

If you're interested in learning more about cheetahs and the work being done at CCF, check out their website Cheetah Conservation Fund

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