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Friday, 29 June 2012

Into the Wild!

The Cheetah Conservation Fund is currently home to 45 captive cheetahs, however it is not our aim or even our wish to have cheetahs here in captivity. Unfortunately, when a young cheetah is orphaned there are no alternatives to captivity as they would be unable to care and fend for themselves. Many of the cheetahs here at CCF, such as our Okakarara Ambassadors, are non-releasable because they came to CCF at too young an age and are now too habituated or comfortable with humans to ever be on their own in the wild. However, some of the cheetahs here at CCF who where orphaned at an old enough age (meaning they have had enough experience in the wild) do have a slight chance to one day return home to the wild. CCF's rewilding program was designed to maximize this chance and we have successfully reintroduced a number of cheetahs to this day.

Thursday the 28th of June was a very exciting day for four of CCF's captive cheetahs. The cheetahs we call the Leopard Boys (Omdillo, Anakin, Chester, and Obi Wan) were released into Erindi Private Game Reserve, beginning their life anew in the wild. These four boys were successfully rewilded early this year and because they did so well in CCF's training camp we took steps to find them a home in the wild. Fortunately, Erindi Private Game Reserve agreed to provide these four a new home. On Wednesday the 27th of June the four were darted and fitted with VHF radio collars, which CCF and Erindi staff will use to track and monitor the cheetahs to ensure that they are doing well on their own. Early Thursday morning the Leopard Boys were loaded up and driven to Erindi at which point they were released. 

We do not yet have much news to report but we will keep you posted on how the Leopard Boys are doing in Erindi.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bella and Padme return from Bellebenno

On the 25th of June, Bella and Padme, two young formerly captive cheetahs at CCF, were darted and removed from the 4,000 hectare Bellebeno soft release training camp.  These young females were being trained to hunt on their own for eventual re-wilding when an appropriate habitat is found to place them.  They had both been in the camp for exactly one month, having been released on the 25th of May.  They have independently proven themselves to be good huntresses and it was decided to remove them from the camp.  Each cheetah was located utilising the radio-tracking collars.  Bella was immobilised first and moved into a holding area; then Padme was subsequently found an immobilised.  Both females had their GPS radio-tracking collars removed and had full physical exams performed to assess their health after their time in the release camp.  Bella had a small wound over her left shoulder, as previously mentioned in an older blog, likely caused by an encounter with a warthog tusk, but it is healing well.  Padme had a small puncture wound behind her left knee joint, possibly caused by a bite or a thorn.  Otherwise both females looked great, having stayed very fit and muscular while hunting.


To immobilize the cheetahs, the new DanInject dart gun, donated to CCF in May of this year by Mike and Rebecca Ross of DanInject USA, was utilised.  Having a new state-of-the-art piece of immobilising equipment allowed the darting of these two cheetahs to proceed easily, safely and accurately.  Everything with the darting procedures and field work-ups went well, thanks to teamwork between the veterinary, husbandry and monitoring teams.  Hopefully both Bella and Padme will have the opportunity to be permanently released as free-ranging cheetahs in the near future. 



1.       Dr. Flacke darting Bella

2.       Bella sporting a colorful dart in her rear

3.       Padme undergoing her examination and field work-up


Gabriella Flacke, DVM, MVSc


Cheetah Conservation Fund


All photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012


Monday, 25 June 2012

A is for Aardvark

CCF has carried out a number of camera trapping surveys throughout the years, and also maintains a network of cameras positioned for ongoing monitoring of the wildlife on our land. While we are generally focusing the carnivores that pass by, there are many other species out there, and the
cameras will trigger no matter what passes them by. In this series of weekly blog entries, I will use these pictures to illustrate some of the wealth of animal life in Namibia - one species per week. I hope you will enjoy seeing a little more of our world here in the bush.

For my first entry, I thought I should start at the very beginning of the alphabet, with the extremely distinctive Aardvark. A high-arching spine, big ears, and a long snout make this animal impossible to mistake. The aardvark lives throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and though rarely seen, is not
considered endangered. The IUCN lists their status as "Least Concern", but does go on to admit that not enough is known to be sure whether the population is decreasing or not.

Aardvarks are mammals of the Orycteropodidae family. They weigh up to 68 kg and reach 60 cm at the shoulder. They feed almost exclusively on ants and termites (hence their pseudonym "antbear"), using their strong front claws to either dig underground, or break into protruding termite mounds.

They also dig burrows in which to sleep during the day, an activity which often brings them into conflict with humans as these burrows often occur along roads, resulting in hazardous potholes. Once dug however, these same burrows are usually taken over by other animals including snakes, jackals, porcupines, hyenas and warthogs.

Here at CCF, a surprising number of staff and volunteers have caught sight of an aardvark while driving at night, although they are still most commonly seen only on our camera traps.

Stay tuned for another animal next week!

Rob Thomson
Ecology Department
Cheetah Conservation Fund

All photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Friday, 22 June 2012

When Bella caught a duiker in Bellebenno

This blog is from an American Working Guest, Bill Young


Photos:  Bill tracking Bella and Padme in Bellebenno, the wound on Bella’s shoulder from the warthog, Padme stretching on a tree, Bella getting a stranglehold on a duiker.


As all adventures must end I thought I would pass along the final chapter in my African adventure and oh what a finish it was!


During my final week at CCF located in Otjiwarongo, Namibia (Cheetah Capital of the World) I have been helping with a variety of different tasks around the centre.  Prior to one of the cheetah runs, where the cheetahs chase a lure around a pulley system on the ground, myself and one of the interns measured the course and timed how long it took the lure (rag) to complete the course. We were then able to calculate that the lure, along with the cheetahs chasing it, were doing about 45 MPH, which is about 3/4 speed for them.


During the week a field count was done in the "Big Field" also known at CCF as the "Little Serengeti". The massive field was once a corn farm but the farmer only had one successful year and eventually sold the land to CCF. The massive field has become a hot spot for many animals because of its vast vegetation and openness. The monthly counts are done on three consecutive days and they consist of three vehicles driving through the "Big Field". Two vehicles travel the exterior boundary roads of the field while one vehicle goes on the path that cuts through the middle of the field. The count consist of recording the species seen, how many in the group, gender and distance from the road. The data is used to see trends in the diversity and quantity of the animals that inhabit the area.


In addition to the field count we also conducted a 12-hour waterhole count. The waterhole counts are done at a different area of the CCF property and cover four waterholes. Waterhole counts are done for the same reasons as the field counts, to see trends in the quantity and diversity of the animals in the area. On the day we did the waterhole count we woke up at 4:30 AM for a 5 AM departure so that all four teams of two would be in their "blind" overlooking their waterhole by 6 AM. As we drove down the darkened path heading to my waterhole location at 5:30 AM we saw a leopard jump from the path back into the bush as he came into the beam of our headlights. The elusive leopard had been spotted!! (But alas would not be counted in the 6 AM to 6 PM count guidelines.) Sitting in the blind for 12 hours, I have a new appreciation for wildlife photographers that sit for hours in the cold or heat all in the hopes of getting that "perfect shot". The waterhole reminded me of a commuter train station with the animals arriving in the morning in what seemed like an organised pattern. The warthogs would arrive and drink and then they would leave and then another species would arrive and depart, and so it went. And then the whole process seemed to repeat late in the afternoon, much like the cycle of the commuters heading into NYC from Long Island. Of the many species that were recorded, my favourite was the giraffe with their contorted drinking position that they must assume in order to get their mouth down to the water. It is also when they are most vulnerable to predators so they are extremely nervous and frequently start to get into the position and then stop. Our blind had both an upper and lower station and I enjoyed viewing the waterhole from 25 feet in the air, it also provided a nice view of the sunrise.


The final three days of my adventure found me in the bush with Ryan who is in charge of the cheetah releases.  While cheetahs are in the soft release area they are monitored daily to evaluate everything from their hunting skills, to finding water and their general well being in handling being free. The two females that were in the soft release area were named Bella and Padme. During the first week that they were released both had made a successful kill of a steenbok, a small antelope. Neither had yet found water and it was being given to them every few days. About midweek Bella had a run in with an adult warthog, who she either had tried to kill or the warthog was protecting one of her calves and Bella got a nasty gash on her shoulder from the warthog's formidable tusk. The CCF Veterinarian prescribed antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory that were given to her daily in some meat chunks. The decision was made to leave her out in the soft release area but to monitor the gash. I arrived at the campsite on Saturday afternoon to track both Bella and Padme using the tracking antenna.


The cheetahs were equipped with collars with two antennas, one that sends a signal to a satellite that provides weekly information as to their movement, the other sends a signal that can be tracked using a handheld antenna. Tracking involves driving the small pickup to various locations and then getting out to use the handheld antenna to get a signal. Once the general area of the cheetah being tracked is located then you go by foot into the bush. The walks could vary from a couple of hundred yards to a couple of miles. Most times the cheetahs would be lying down and you wouldn't visually spot them until you were almost on top of them and you would hear them hiss at you. Walking through the bush varied greatly, in some areas the vegetation was just 3 foot high grass while in others it was tough sledding due to the density of bushes (most of which had thorns). Although the most treacherous part of the tracking were the holes that the warthogs dug, as they dig to eat the roots and bulbs of plants, as well as to take over aardvark dens for their night's shelter. I can't tell you how many times I turned an ankle or even took a face plant while tracking! If you were looking down all the time you'd either walk into thorn bushes or you would loose visual contact with the cheetah that you were tracking which then required you to get the tracking antenna out again. Female cheetahs are loners; they normally hunt alone and raise their cubs on their own. Males on the other hand frequently form coalitions and hunt together which allows them to take down bigger game. Many times 2 or 3 brothers will form a coalition. With this soft release consisting of two females it meant we were always tracking just one at a time. 


We found both cheetahs on Saturday afternoon and stayed with each for a while, Ryan was always taking copious notes as to their location, weather conditions, behaviour and general observations. If they were laying down sometimes we would sit down some 20 yards away and just observe them. If the cheetah was walking we would frequently follow her for a while usually 20-30 yards behind her. As we left Bella late Saturday afternoon, the afternoon sunshine against the dry golden coloured grasses of the African winter were a beautiful backdrop to Bella sitting there looking over the landscape. I couldn't help but stop every fifty yards or so and look back at Bella and think that with every step we took away from Bella she was taking a step closer to being wild and free.


The next morning we got up at 5 AM to be in the bush by 6 AM. The African winters in Namibia (the southern hemisphere seasons are reversed from ours) are warm during the day averaging 60 to 75 degrees but drop quickly at night. By the end of my stay the nights were getting very cold especially out in the bush with lows in the 30's. Out in the bush I slept in thermal underwear with my sleeping bag zipped up over my head as the tent provided little comfort from the temperature. In the morning we first found Padme and she was still lying around in the early morning hours so we then left her and went to find Bella. By the time we found Bella she had finished eating a small warthog that she had probably caught the night before after we left her. Our euphoria was tempered when we saw that she had regurgitated some of the warthog meat. Again Ryan took numerous notes for his report back to both the CCF veterinarian and the Cheetah curator.


In the afternoon, we tracked both females, who seemed to be settled in for the day, especially Bella who had made the kill and had eaten. There was some growing concern about Padme who now had only one kill in the 9 days since her release. If she didn't make a kill by the next day (Monday) she would be given a piece of meat. Both had still not found water and it was being provided to them.


In the morning we checked on Padme first who still hadn't moved far and was not up and hunting, Ryan took notes and I could tell his concern was growing for her. We found Bella and proceeded to follow her for two hours through some very heavy bush. She stopped frequently and would lie down for a while. Then she would get up and off we would go, we lost her frequently in the heavy bush and would have to get the antenna out again to find her and when we did, she would just look at us like what happened to you. I was getting the feeling we were interfering with her hunting as we certainly were not as quiet as she was going through the bush. Then she came to another clearing with some dirt on the ground and laid down again. Ryan was standing next to me making some notes and we were about 15 yards from Bella when all of a sudden I noticed a duiker (another small type of antelope) come prancing out of the bush some 15-20 yards behind Bella. I quickly tapped Ryan on the arm and nodded in the direction of the duiker. Almost instantly Bella either heard the duiker or saw it in her peripheral vision and with lightning speed was up and running in what can only be described as a flash. With that Ryan turned to me and said "She's gonna get it!" and off we ran following the chase. The chase, Ryan later estimated, through the bush was roughly 80-100 yards and with Bella's speed it was only took about 5-6 seconds. When we heard the cry of the duiker we knew Bella had it and we followed the cry to where they were. There we watched from 10-15 yards away as Bella wrestled the small creature to the ground in a clearing and worked on getting her choke hold on it. Her hunting inexperience was apparent by how long it took for her to get the proper bite on the trachea but once she did, the animal's crying immediately stopped and the kill was complete within a couple of minutes. Bella was exhausted, not from the run which was relatively short but from the extended wrestling match once she had caught the duiker. But it was a valuable lesson as she would need to make the kill quicker as the extended cries of the duiker would bring uninvited guests to her meal out in the wild. Once the antelope was dead, she dragged it into the bush and rested for 30 minutes. Then she proceeded to open her meal and began eating. Ryan I were so excited, to have witnessed the beginning and end of the hunt, so up close and personal was AMAZING. Unfortunately once again after eating some of her meal, Bella threw-up what she had eaten. Again Ryan took exhaustive notes and we finally left Bella and headed back to camp. I felt as if I had been inside the TV while watching a National Geographic special!


When we got back to the CCF centre, we spoke to the Veterinarian (Gaby) about Bella throwing up and she thought that Bella might be having a reaction to the antibiotic she was on, as other "cats" sometimes had nausea issues with it. They were going to either stop or change the antibiotic and monitor her over the next few days.


That night at dinner I was thanked by the Cheetah curator for my help over the three and half weeks I was there. I got up to say my goodbyes and proceeded to tell them how lucky I felt and that everyone should have the three weeks that I had at CCF. From cleaning pens to feeding the cheetahs and everything in between. I had seen the birth of goats and the putting down of a sick and elderly cheetah (Tempesta), I had witnessed the circle of life firsthand. As for Bella, I had cleaned her enclosure, fed her, watched her release into the 10,000 acre soft release area and had witnessed firsthand her successful hunt. You couldn't have scripted a better adventure.





Working Guest

Cheetah Conservation Fund


All photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Livestock Guarding Dog Road Trip - Part 2

My second dog trip took me to Kamanjab, northeast of CCF just before you reach Etosha National Park in the north of Namibia. Unfortunately some of our dogs suffer from a tongue cancer, which is probably a combination of genetic susceptibility and the environment (i.e. high sun index), and we were visiting dogs in the region to take tongue biopsies. Mathieu, our French vet intern, came along to perform the surgeries in the field and I acted as vet technician. The hope is that once we know the extent of the cancer in the affected dogs we will be able to treat the condition.

We managed to biopsy three dogs and, although we had a couple of nervous moments, all turned out OK in the end. Once again, each dog was very well looked after by their owners and we had no issues handling the dogs and injecting anaesthetic. This whole process can be more complicated in the field as we don't have access to monitors and oxygen, but we are able to manually check temperature, heart rate and respiration.

The first dog, Hembwa, is starting to lose weight now as her tongue cancer is progressing, but she is such a friendly dog. Her surgery went well and she is clearly very bonded with her flock as, as soon as she came round, she jumped the kraal fence on very wobbly legs and ran back to her 'family'. Our second two surgeries were slightly more nerve-wracking as the first dog wouldn't wake up and the second dog kept holding his breath whilst under anaesthetic! But all ended well and the dogs were left to sleep off the drugs!  We shall continue to monitor the progress of their health throughout the year. It is good to see that, despite their illness, they are still acting as amazing livestock guarding dogs protecting their flock from predators such as cheetahs.

Best wishes,

Anja Bradley

Livestock Guarding Dog Project Officer

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012


Monday, 18 June 2012

Volunteering as an Earthwatch volunteer

The personal blog of an Earthwatch volunteer, Susan Howard, from the USA


In March of this year, my friend Arta and I flew to Namibia for two weeks to work on the Cheetah Conservation Fund's farm. Cheetahs in Namibia share the land with ranchers and cheetah are a threat to their livestock. The Fund tries to help farmers find ways to reduce conflict with the cheetah and raises Anatolian livestock guarding dogs that they give to assist farmers in protecting their livestock. The Fund will house those cheetah that are no longer able to survive in the wild.


As a result, there are 51 cheetah living on the Fund's property. Some are wild and are not very interested in seeing humans at all and hopefully will one day be released back into the wild, while others have been brought to there as very young cats and have no skills in hunting or defending themselves, and are therefore permanent residents used for educational purposes.


So what did we do while there? The most fun job was to help feed the 51 resident cheetah housed in various parts of this very large property. In the morning, the truck was loaded with meat and we would make our way to the various enclosures. For the very wild cheetahs, we would throw the meat over the fence to waiting cheetahs who would take the meat and run off to some secluded spot to eat. Others were fed in bowls in two part enclosures to allow us to place the meat and then allow the cheetah to enter the enclosure. Some would even hiss at us!


Another job included feeding and looking after the livestock guarding dog puppies. While we were there, there were eight puppies at about 8-weeks-old and already they were huge!  If dogs are going to protect goats, they have to be around them from an early age. So another job was to look after and feed goats, especially baby goats. This was a really fun thing to do!


CCF also does a lot of research, from habitat studies for wild cheetahs to analysing physical and medical cheetah records. All of this has to be entered into the computer. So data entry was also part of the work. Not my favourite but someone has to do it!  It was very interesting learning about all these aspects of CCF that help to save the wild cheetah.


All the best, Susan

Earthwatch Volunteer

Cheetah Conservation Fund


All photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Friday, 15 June 2012

OK Ambassador Tiger Lily Undergoes Surgery

On 13th June 2012 in the morning, Tiger Lily, one of the four OK Ambassador Cheetahs at CCF, was anesthetised for several medical and surgical procedures.  For regular readers of our blog, you may already know that in April of this year, when Tiger Lily underwent her first annual wellness exam, a growth was surgically removed from the inside of the wrist on the right front leg.  This growth was sent to a veterinary pathology laboratory in Johannesburg, South Africa, and was diagnosed as a mast cell tumour.  Mast cell tumours are generally considered benign in cats, which is quite different to the situation with domestic dogs where they are often a very aggressive, malignant type of cancer.  Fortunately Tiger Lily’s tumour was diagnosed as benign.

In late May, a small growth about the size of a pea was noted in the same location where the tumour had been removed in April.  Unfortunately it seemed that the growth was coming back, possibly because it was not completely removed the first time.  As is the case with most types of cancerous growths, there can be microscopic extension of tumour cells beyond just the mass itself.  Also, this tumour was located in a spot where there is not a lot of “extra” tissue to remove, and there are many important ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. 


Two veterinary oncologists (cancer specialists) were consulted, one in South Africa and one in the United States.  A plan was developed to perform another surgery to remove the tumour a second time and also to evaluate for its potential spread.  The second surgery went very well, and this time the mass was smaller and easier to remove.  She also had radiographs taken of her chest and abdomen, and everything looked normal.  Finally, she had an ultrasound exam of her abdomen, and a small nodule was identified in the spleen.  This nodule could represent a benign aggregation of cells within the spleen and be unrelated to the tumour on her front leg, but there is a small chance it could represent spread (metastasis) of the tumour to the spleen.  A sample was taken of the nodule using a very small needle, guided by the ultrasound.  The mass and the cells from the spleen will be sent to the pathologist in South Africa for evaluation.   We are hopeful and optimistic that all the samples will come back as benign. 


After her procedures were finished, “Tiger” was taken back to Dr. Laurie Marker’s house for recovery, where she was watched closely by several student interns and Dr. Marker herself.  She recovered uneventfully and was up and walking around within a few hours of the procedure.  Today, just two days later, she and her three siblings are racing around and playing as if nothing ever happened.  Tiger Lily will take antibiotics for a week to prevent infection of the surgery site, and she is also taking a pain medication. 


Both the radiographs and the ultrasound could not have been performed if it were not for the gracious generosity of Mr. Mark Cater, a friend of CCF’s in the UK, who donated both the ultrasound and the x-ray machine to the CCF clinic within the last 18 months.  We are extremely grateful for these kind of generous donations to assist with the health and welfare of both captive and wild cheetahs.


Best wishes,

Dr Gabriella Flacke, DVM

Cheetah Conservation Fund


All photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Livestock Guarding Dog Road Trip - Part 1

Once our puppies have been placed on farms we are vigilant about checking on their progress and health throughout their lifetime. All of us pet owners know how important it is to vaccinate our cats and dogs, but this isn't so easy out here in Namibia, especially when you live far from the nearest town and vet, and particularly for poorer farmers who may not be able to afford such care.

Our livestock guarding dog puppies are placed at approximately eight weeks of age onto the farms, following neutering and spaying done on site.  We follow-up these placements to check on the dog’s progress with visits at three months, six months and a year, and then by annual visits as near to their birthday as we can get!

I recently took a dog trip up to the Otavi and Tsumeb districts of Namibia which are areas north-east of our CCF base. It involves very early mornings, long drives and occasionally we get a little bit lost, but it's wonderful to see our dogs doing the work they were bred to do. And so far, all of the farmers I have met have had healthy, happy dogs all doing a wonderful job of protecting their stock from predators, which is great news!

The visits involve speaking to the farmers and herders about the dog, completing questionnaires about the dogs performance and health, and vaccinating them if required. We provide rabies vaccine and a 5in1 injection which provides protection from Distemper, Hepatitis , Parainfluenza, & Parvovirus. We also provide a spot-on treatment for fleas, ticks and worms.  A healthy dog is a happy dog and a happy dog helps to protect his herd better!

Best wishes,

Anja Bradley

Livestock Guarding Dog Project Officer

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Monday, 11 June 2012

Monitoring game populations by an Earthwatch Volunteer

For those of you who have been following our blog for some time, you will have already heard of our huge soft release farm, Bellebenno, which is just short of 4,000 hectares.  Cheetahs that are considered candidates for reintroduction to the wild are radio collared and released here to see how well they would do on their own.  Can they kill and find water to sustain themselves? 


The area has a variety of wildlife, some suitable for cheetah food, others not.  The ecology department is responsible for monitoring the wildlife in this area to determine trends in populations due to predation, migration, death and disease.  We want to know firstly if there is enough game in this area to feed the cheetahs we release and secondly if the cheetahs are causing a detrimental effect on prey populations.  As an Earthwatch Volunteer, one of my tasks in my two-week period was to help in this monitoring.  There are four well-spaced waterholes in Bellebenno with hides for people to sit in and observe the wildlife.  I had the marvellously wonderful experience of spending a 12-hour day, 6am to 6pm, at one of these waterholes recording all the animals I saw.


We were sat in a brick hide, complete with a slit for viewing, about 15-20 m from the waterhole itself.  Every time animals appeared, whether it was the ubiquitous guinea fowl, the abundant but charismatic warthog, or the bigger game animals, my response was always, wow, Wow, WOW…  We were so close and got the chance to take some great photos of these animals going about their daily tasks.  It was a fantastic way to observe these animals and their natural behaviour at close range.


Our count for the day included 45 guinea fowl, 72 (!) warthogs, a couple of large herds of zebra, 28 oryx with their beautiful painted faces, a mother giraffe with her cute young and 21 huge eland.  Then, as we were closing down for the day and the sun started to set in front of us, another enormous eland appeared with two little steenbok, the latter of whom could have walked beneath the eland’s belly with room to spare as the size difference between these two antelope species was shocking!   As the sun vanished beyond the horizon, I realised that this was a day to treasure always with such fascinating wildlife almost close enough to touch.


If you would like to volunteer in an Eathwatch Expedition to Cheetah Conservation Fund please follow this link


Rosemary Smith

Earthwatch Volunteer

Cheetah Conservation Fund


Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Friday, 8 June 2012

Clearing bush to help cheetahs, people and the environment!

CCF’s activities are not just limited to cheetahs and their research and reintroduction, but also include environmental restoration and livelihood development. CCF’s region is known for a high density of cheetahs but is also infested with native-species thornbush, known as encroachment, and the problem is staggering when you travel the region: more than 26 million hectares are encroached with between 2,000 to 10,000 kg of bush per hectare.


Due to overgrazing, wildfire suppression, and reduction in natural grazers, commercial farmland in north-central Namibia is encroached by several thornbush species: Acacia mellifera, Acacia reficiens, and Dichrostachys cinerea, with relative densities depending on soils and rainfall. Bush encroachment is exacerbated further by overgrazing, which decreases farm value. The problem has been recognized by the Namibian government and there are several initiatives to find cost-effective land restoration methods.


The invasive thornbush species are dense hardwood with a heating value similar to coal. They burn cleanly with little smoke – perfect for campfires and cooking, or power generation on an industrial scale. If a business can successfully utilise this energy it becomes a triple bottom line corporation: land restoration, job creation and business profitability.


CCF Bush (pty) Ltd is the entity responsible for research and demonstration of this business. Thornbush on CCF land is harvested, chipped and transported to a factory, where it is compressed into wood briquettes. The product, “Bushblok,” is aimed at the braai (barbecuing) market as there are no chemicals or additives and it burns cleanly with high heat. It is differentiated from firewood by being denser, drier and more consistent.


To maintain social and environmental standards, CCF Bush is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council’s principles for responsible harvesting. The criteria are similar to Fair Trade and include ensuring indigenous rights, maintaining pollution controls and compliance with domestic and international labour laws. We are proud to say our product is FSC 100% from well-managed forests!


At the current scale of operations, more than 30 Namibians are employed in skilled and semi-skilled positions. The amount of bush on CCF land guarantees a decades-long harvest schedule before needing to return and harvest an area again. Different harvest techniques and machinery are being trialled for various combinations of capital, rate of harvesting, and job creation.


To encourage other uses of encroaching bush, research on harvesting and production is made available to those interested in utilising Namibian biomass. Existing initiatives include DRFN’s CBEND project <<>> of powering an electric generator and a cement manufacturer co-firing their furnace with coal and bush. Other industries continue to explore the feasibility of biomass fuel.


CCF Bush is a direct conservation connection to the cheetah: predators struggle to hunt in dense thornbush and risk severe eye damage when chasing prey. When the savannah is restored to the natural habitat, the predators can resume their natural hunting style. By encouraging and supporting bush clearing initiatives, CCF Bush contributes to cheetah conservation in Namibia.


You can read more about the Bushblok history and factory here

and here


Deg Hembroff
Facilities Engineer
CCF Bush Pty Ltd.


Photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund and CCF Bush (pty) Ltd 2012

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

New dart gun donated!

Recently CCF was very fortunate to have a brand new, top of the line Dan Inject dart gun donated to us by Mike and Rebecca Ross, of DanInject in the USA.  It arrived at CCF on May 25th, and although we haven’t had any cheetahs that have required darting for immobilization since we acquired the gun, yesterday the veterinary staff had their first practice session, darting a cardboard box with a target drawn on it.  Our previous darting system was quite antiquated and had some technical problems, so the acquisition of this amazing piece of immobilization equipment will make it much easier, more reliable, and safer to dart animals here at CCF.  We are very grateful to the generosity of our donors, and will be sure to post another update when the dart gun is actually used to immobilize a cheetah.  Thank you so much from CCF to Mike and Rebecca.

Pictured are:
Johan, CCF Farms Manager, learning how to use the gun
Dr. Gabriella Flacke, CCF veterinarian, taking a practice shot
Rosie, CCF veterinary nurse, aiming at the target

Best wishes,

Dr Gabriella Flacke DMV
Cheetah Conservation Fund

Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Monday, 4 June 2012

The journal of a volunteer at CCF

Hi my name is Bill Young and I’m the newest “Volunteer Guest Worker” at CCF. I’m 51, semi-retired and my work background is in advertising sales and I hold a Master’s Degree in Marketing. I currently live in New York and have a winter home in Park City, UT where I enjoy skiing.  Here is a recount of the first few days of my time here at CCF.

Day two

The posted daily work schedule had me on duty for “Cheetah Run”. Myself and two of the staff went into the cheetah enclosure and setup the run system; it’s similar to how they run greyhound dogs: an electric motor drives a cord around a pulley system on the ground. On the cord is a small rag and the movement alone initiates the Cheetah’s natural instinct to chase. It was UNBELIEVABLE to see them run, truly poetry in motion, their acceleration so indescribable, I was so moved by watching it that it brought a tear to my eye. The next work assignment was “Cheetah Husbandry” (care and feeding), so we went a few miles out to a reserve where the more wild cheetahs are kept and that hopefully will be reintroduced into the wild when their hunting skills improve and a suitable area for release is found. They ran behind the small pick-up truck as we stood in the back calling their names with their lunch in hand and after they got their exercise they got their meal; a very cool experience. We also checked the fence line to make sure warthogs hadn’t made any holes underneath and also drained, cleaned and refilled the cement waterholes. We saw more game in this area as well, including giraffe, kudu, zebra, and oryx. We then came back to CCF’s main facility and had clean-up detail of a few of the enclosures, picking up poop and bones: thank god my years of experience of picking up after my golden retriever made me pre-qualified for that job!

Day Four

Got to work the “Cheetah Run” again in the morning, what a thrill to see them run! Then we went out to do the Cheetah Husbandry work for all the other Cheetahs at CCF. In the afternoon I got to meet and feed the Okakarara Ambassador cheetahs, four siblings that came to the center when they were 3.5 weeks old. They have been hand-raised and will act as the Ambassadors for CCF, an important educational role. I hear they put on a good show when they run, as they are still quite young (21 months) and full of energy. They will be running on Friday and I will be there to help – very exciting! Tomorrow we’re going out to check the camera traps (that automatically take pictures when animals pass them): another day, another experience.

All the best to you all!!


Having been here just a week and having seen, done and learned so much already,

I can say that I will no longer think of my donations to CCF as donations

but rather an investment, an investment in the survival of the Cheetah.

Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Livestock guarding dogs at CCF

Anyone who knows about CCF and the conservation work we do here in Namibia is probably aware of our Livestock Guarding Dog Programme. But for those of you who may be new to us, let me explain a little more...

Here at CCF we breed Anatolian Shepherd dogs which have been used for thousands of years in Turkey to protect goats and sheep from predators. This successful programme has been helping to save wild cheetah in Namibia since 1994. By working with local farmers and their livestock, using the dogs is one of several non-lethal predator management strategies that we have developed.

The dogs are attentive, trustworthy and, most important of all, protective. In Africa, the dogs protect against large and medium-sized cat species and small canids. Upon spotting a predator, the dog places itself between the predator and its livestock ‘family’ and barks very loudly. This disturbs the stalk-ambush technique of the predator and makes the livestock aware of the danger. Big dogs are imposing and most predators will avoid the risk of injury and find supper somewhere else!

Stay tuned for more blogs on the trips I take around Namibia to check up on the dogs we have bred that are working with farmers in the field to protect livestock against predators such as the cheetah.

Best wishes,

Anja Bradley

Livestock Guarding Dog Project Officer

Cheetah Conservation Fund

All photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012