This blog was written by an American returning Working Guest, John MacDonald, and recounts his time at CCF compared with his last visit in 2011.
Day 10 of placement - This morning we held a cheetah run with the Okakarara Ambassador cheetahs; it was the first time I had seen them since last June - they have almost doubled in size! This was the first time Tiger Lilly had participated in a run since the removal of a growth on her right front leg. Based on her performance, it appeared the leg is completely healed. The cheetahs were very enthusiastic and ran extremely well.
Later in the day I accompanied, Dr Laurie to the “Silver” pens with Gaby our veterinarian and Mathieu - a young veterinarian volunteer from France who is helping CCF for several months. The object was to capture the male Josie for his annual check-up. At twelve years old, he is one of the oldest cheetahs at CCF. After he was darted by Gaby, we transported him to the clinic. Later in the day I checked in on him. With the exception of a few minor dental issues, he passed his physical with flying colors.
Day 13 - Today was devoted to working at CCF’s model farm, where we demonstrate predator friendly farming techniques to local farmers, including the use of Anatolian shepherd dogs to protect the flocks. The farm contains dairy goats, whose milk is used to create cheese sold under CCF’s name. The farm also contains Boer goats and Damara sheep. Our task this morning was to de-worm all of the goats and sheep. Gaby and Mathieu were assisted by Martha and Molly, two vet nurse interns, myself and Tyapa, the Kraal manager. There was well over one-hundred-and-fifty animals – we had our work cut out! As we completed our task and started packing up our equipment, Gaby said that we needed to next go to de-worm the three rams, which were in separate enclosures. With a bit of a twinkle in her eye, Gaby asked, “Mathieu why don’t you, John and one of the farm staff members go and get the rams?” No problem: we sallied forth into the next goat pen. I don’t know what a ram looks like, but we were staring directly at this huge white billy goat, named Apollo, and he was staring right back at us. I am not sure who was chasing who, but the term “goat rodeo” does come to mind. After several unsuccessful attempts at catching him, we decided to coerce him into a smaller enclosure so he would be easier to catch. We again stared at each other, this time across a smaller space. We made our move toward Apollo and he toward us; I was in the lead. Having played quite a bit of football, I wondered how hard it could be to tackle a goat?! The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air to land ignominiously on my backside! I think my pride was hurt more than my behind. I like to think my effort slowed Apollo down so that the other two men were able to catch him. He was then successfully de-wormed.
For the next two rams, one of which was a big fellow, with long crimson hair, and an impressive set or curled horns, indeed like a ram: no billy goat this one. This time I let my partners take the lead, while I stood a distant third allowing them to absorb the initial momentum from our furry friend. Fortunately we were able to masterfully catch the last two rams without going airborne. Our de-worming mission was successfully completed without any further mishap.
Day 14 - Residing in the US, it is a unique experience to travel to CCF and interact with people from all over the world. We had an Ambassador cheetah walk scheduled with a group of 15 senior citizen tourists from France, most of whom did not speak English. Our handlers included Adam, a CCF employee from Australia, Suzie, a long-term intern from the UK, Stephanie, an American CCF employee, and myself: none of us spoke French. Fortunately the tourists brought along an interpreter, so Suzie spoke in English, which was then translated into French for the audience. Regardless of languages, it was clear everyone was enthralled with the Ambassadors, evidenced by the many questions asked.
Day 15 - Today we relocated Donner and Dexter, two male 20-month-old cheetahs that were brought to CCF as orphaned cubs, to different enclosures. Donner is the darker of the two cats with an impressive mantel. The last time I saw him was last June when he was still a cub and was residing with his two sisters, Skiet and Kekay. Every time we would approach their enclosure to feed them, the two sisters would retreat to the farthest corner of the enclosure. At the same time, Donner would puff himself up and approach us positioning himself between his sisters and us, letting us know in no uncertain terms that he was their protector. A year later and almost full grown, he is developing into a fine adult male cheetah and has not lost any of his assertiveness. Hopefully their independent spirits will serve them well should they be included in any future release program.
One of the best things about volunteering at CCF is that no day is the same and you never know what to expect. It is a fantastic learning experience for both young and old alike. For more information on how you can volunteer, please visit www.cheetah.org/?nd=volunteering_in_namibia