Etosha National Park is located in the northern region of Namibia and takes up an area of somewhere around 22000 square kilometers. It is pretty much the coolest place I have ever been to. Sometimes it looks pretty barren, but you can turn a corner and there is a herd of elephant staring you in the face. There was a constant feeling of anticipation for what was to be seen next. I had plenty of time to see it all too. I spent three days staying in the middle camp called Halali, which was very nice. Nice meals every day, a pool, hot showers, comfy beds, and a fridge to hold my chocolate so it didn't melt. Day one was spent coming into the park from the south and working our way east to Halali. On this day we saw rhino, hyena, elephant, and loads of antelope. Day two started early and ended late, because we needed to see as much of the park as possible. We visited the pan, which is thought to be a long dried up lake that is 4500 square kilometers, and after about 10 hours of driving the park we got back to the camp for some rest. The last day we headed east through the park to see the last bit and exit through the east gate. This is the day that we saw a few more elephants, and most importantly a couple of lions. This trip was perfect. I had always dreamt of going to Africa to see the wildlife and that is exactly what I got here. The pictures I'll add to this post will not do this place justice, but they are still pretty cool to see anyway.
Saturday, 30 November 2013
I have been in Namibia for nine weeks. It sounds like a good chunk of time, but in reality is isn't all that long. Even though the time I have spent here is relatively short; I have met so many people and done so many things. Feeding cheetahs, medicating goats, creating displays, exercising cheetahs, counting animals in the wild, walking dogs, cleaning pens, performing necropsies, staring at the Namibian stars, shooing scorpions out of my room, getting sunburnt, playing card games late into the night, getting a bacterial infection, and watching sunsets from a water tower. I may have got carried away there, but I think that list gives you a glimpse into what it was like to work for CCF for this time span. Still to come in the next week is a trip to Etosha National Park. The wildlife there is phenomenal, and I have been waiting for this trip my whole internship. I'm still not done working, though. Projects need to be finished and animals still need to be taken care of. This last week is gonna fly by.
Friday, 22 November 2013
LSGD stands for Livestock Guard Dogs. There are quite a few of them here at CCF, and they play a crucial role. They are usually Kangals or Anatolian Shepherds in breed. They grow to be very large, which is a good thing because they need to be a presence when they are out in the wild with their herd. These dogs grow up with a herd of livestock around them at all times, and they see this herd as their family. This means when the herd goes out to graze the dogs will go with them and protect them while they are vulnerable out in the bush. Having a Livestock Guard Dog is one of the best steps a farmer can make towards decreasing human-predator conflict. Here at CCF, we provide farmers with these dogs so that predators can be kept away from livestock in a nonlethal manner. We breed the dogs here on site, and when they are around 10 weeks old they are sent off around Africa to start their life with a herd. Dogs must be kept here so that they can be bred to make more future protectors. Thirteen dogs are here currently, but they don't all serve as breeders. Some go out with our own herd of goats each day to protect them, others have been had to be taken back from the farms they were sent to because of health issues, and some are retired dogs that we like to keep around. I am lucky in that I get to spend quite a bit of time around these dogs each day. I may be cleaning their pens, giving them a walk, giving physical check ups to make sure they are healthy, or even providing medication. If only I could take on of the puppies home from the next litter, I'm sure they would also make great pets.
Monday, 18 November 2013
Centre Feeding happens every day. It is an hour long presentation that CCF puts on for visitors. It includes cheetah facts, cheetah stories, and watching the cheetah eat its daily meal right in front of you. The person giving this talk? Whichever intern got assigned to it that day. All of us know plenty about the cheetah, but our talks differ quite significantly. Talks given by the same person will even change each time that they do it. There are a few things that need to be covered like the stories of our cubs, the meat that we feed the cats, and what CCF does to help the cheetah as a species, but the rest is up to you. I give these speeches about twice a week, and each time I get more and more confident in what I know and what I should be saying. Even though I hated being in front of a crowd the first time I gave the Centre Feeding talk, I kind of like the lime light now. It is nice to present to everyone what I have come to know from being here at CCF. The number of people present to listen can range from 1 to 100 people, so you have to be ready for anything. Sometimes they have translators, because they don't speak English. Other times they don't speak English and just nod their heads like they are getting everything you're saying. It is different every time, and has made for one of the more challenging reoccurring experiences that I have had here at CCF.
Saturday, 9 November 2013
One of the worst droughts in recent history is taking place right now in Namibia. The wet season is just about here and we have our fingers crossed for rain each day. There are a few reasons why rain needs to go ahead and show up before I leave here. First, Namibia is dry as can be right now and you can tell just by looking around at the plants. It is pretty brown around here, but if the rains were to hit then it would quickly turn to a lush green. Being able to see a healthy and well watered Namibia from the top of Leopard Hill would be a beautiful contrast to what you can see from up there now. Second reason would be, I want the animals here to flourish. As you drive through the bush you see eland that have become too weak to go on and gave up by the sides of roads to die, and warthog piglets are skinny as some of the staff here have ever seen. The fauna here just is not doing well. They need some good rains to form water holes and replenish the plant life so that they can begin to thrive again. Last reason is, when the rains come so do the insects. One insect in particular is the termite. Large termite mounds riddle the wild, and when the rains come these mounds become active in one big event. Termites pour out of there mounds after the first rain with wings that they have developed and have been waiting to use. Within the day that they have emerged from their towers, they lose their wings and are again forced to walk along the ground. So many termites come out and lose their wings at this time that the ground is said to have gained a wing carpet over night. This sounds like the kind of natural occurrence that someone only has one chance to see in their lifetime, so the rains better come quick so that I can see it.
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Usually my alarm goes off around 6:20 AM, but not today. Today I got to stay in my bed until the sun came overhead and started to beat down on my tin roof around 9:45. From there I got some juggling lessons from a fellow intern. I am starting to get the hang of it as well. Juggling continued until around 11:00 because that is when brunch is served. This is one of the best meals of the week, so we like to get there right on time to get plenty of bacon. Next came some laundry, followed by waiting for the laundry to finish, and ending with some hanging out of the laundry to dry. Now that the laundry is done, I have learned to juggle, and I have a full stomach I can now get around to climbing Leopard Hill. This is a rather small hill behind the camp that I stay at, and I have heard it has a great view of the area. After a small hike I got to the top and looked around. All scenery is beautiful in my eyes, even when there isn't much to see. Namibia is really flat, and it is also mostly desert. After a small stay at the top of Leopard Hill it was time to head back so I could spend the rest of the day off how it is supposed to be spent, which is lounging around and recharging my batteries.
Monday, 21 October 2013
If you sit in one spot long enough animals are bound to walk past. In this case, I sat in that spot for twelve hours. A fellow intern and I were placed ten meters up in a hide for a day in order to count the number of animals, and what species they are, that come to a certain water hole in Bellebeno. Bellebeno is the soft release camp that I referenced in an earlier post. The baboons in the area had decided to give the hide some primate-like touches, and it we hadn’t gotten around to fixing it yet. So there we sat for half a day. In that tattered hide I saw hundreds of animals. Most of the animals were warthogs, but there was the occasional surprise. A giraffe hung around for an hour and half before he decided to let us watch him drink. Fifty eight guinea fowl rushed in and took the water hole over like a swarm. Jackals timidly approached the water and would only take a few drinks in between frantic scannings of the surrounding bush. It was great to see how different species treat the water hole, and how the wild can have a kind of central hub that almost every species needs to visit.
Walking home at night, hundreds of critters will run through the beam of my flashlight. Solifugae, beetles, mice, cockroaches, millipedes, and lizards are extremely common. Sometimes they aren’t critters at all but full grown beasts like warthog, kudu, and oryx. Seeing these animals is everyday life here in Africa. The other night I was brushing my teeth and out of the corner of my eye I saw a vibrant green looking insect to my right. Intrigued, I wandered over to it to find it wasn’t an insect at all. It was a wrapper from a candy bar. I looked at this thinking, “Had I been anywhere in the United States, I would never have expected this to be anything other than a piece of trash.” It is astounding how little litter there is here. Of course, there aren’t many people around, but this place is so clean, and untouched by people, that I am more likely to see wildlife than trash. Think about the city that you live in. Next time you are out for a walk count how many pieces of trash you see. Also, count the number of animals you see. I have no idea how it would turn out, but I would be willing to bet the trash would win.
Wednesday, 16 October 2013
When a cheetah is still releasable there are quite a few steps that CCF needs to take before being able to let it back into the wild. Usually, cheetahs that end up here have been set back in development in one way or another. They may have lost their mother at a young age so they didn't learn to be a cheetah, or they may have been injured and needed to be taken in for surgery or dentistry work. Either way, we need to be sure that these cats have what it takes to go out into the wild and be successful. Opening a carcass, finding water holes, proper hunting techniques, and predator avoidance are some of the things that a cheetah must know to survive. These tactics are put to test in our soft release camp called Bellebeno. This is a game reserve that contains game and water holes that the cheetah must use to survive. Cheetahs placed in Bellebeno will be monitored and, if deemed successful, will then be taken to a nearby reserve to be released into the wild. Further monitoring is done on the cheetah while it is the wild to make sure everything is going alright. This whole process has recently happened with two adult females here at CCF named Luna and Athena. Just the other day they were taken to the wild. This is a big part of what CCF strives to do, and we all have a fingers crossed that these two girls continue to thrive while on their own.
Sunday, 6 October 2013
Stitch, Rainbow, and Aurora are the female cheetah cubs kept in the centre pens at CCF. Visitors can see them get fed around 1:30 everyday. These cats are not likely to be releasable since they were brought in at such a young age, because if a cat is too used to humans it is more likely to approach something like a farm and get itself shot and killed. These cats still act like wild cats, though. Aurora and Rainbow will come running at the fence while hissing and spitting if you get too close to it. Stitch, however, tends to stay towards the back of the pen during feeding time. This may have something to do with the fact that Stitch's bones grew atypically due to a lack of minerals in her diet during development. This occurred before she arrived at CCF, and now that she is here she gets a special diet of chicken necks that are high in calcium. Despite her limp she is still a happy cheetah that will run and play with the other two cubs. All the cheetahs here have had hard times, that is often the reason they end up here, but if all goes well then they will recover just fine and get back out into the wild.
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
After 3 flights and a long car ride that combined to over 30 hours of travel time, I arrived at the Cheetah Conservation Fund. I was taken to my room at a camp named Light Foot. Being on planes for the past day and a half drained me. Despite the simplicity of the day I still saw quite a bit of wildlife, including: kudu, warthogs, skink, ostrich, cheetah, oryx, baboons, really cool birds, and some gnarly insects. After it all I only had the energy to eat dinner and head to bed. Sleeping here in the middle of the bush in Namibia is a bit different from home. It is pitch black, animals are always making noises in the night, and bugs think your bed is as cozy as you do. Nonetheless, I slept pretty well. The next day was orientation, but I got a bit of a surprise to start the day off. There was a cheetah run planned with the cheetahs that have been here at CCF the longest. They are called the ambassadors. Cheetah runs are kind of like a greyhound race in the way that there is a toy on a string that zooms around a course that the cheetahs love to chase. Seeing the fastest land animal bolt after this toy was quite the sight. The rest of the day was spent orientating me to CCF as an organization.