Monday, 21 October 2013

Water Hole Count

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

Luna and Athena

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

The Cubs

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

Getting Started

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.