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Monday, 2 September 2013

CJ and Stephanie Mantilla - Volunteer Stories

My name is CJ Mantilla and I am a Sales Representative from Houston, Texas.  I love animal photography and I’m married to a Zoo Keeper.  Opportunities abound!

I came to CCF to support my wife and her lifelong love of Cheetahs.  I strongly believe in conservation and the work CCF has done, so I came for myself, too.  Oh, and I came armed with my camera ready to take pictures... I ended up with 4,000-ish.  

I had a thoroughly amazing and educational experience during my two weeks here.  Immediately, I noticed that saving the Cheetah was not just an American thing nor just a Cheetah thing.  Cheetah work, alone, probably represents less than half of the daily workload here at CCF.  I worked with people from the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, South Africa, and Namibia cleaning goat pens, feeding and walking dogs, entering data for various animals, and of course feeding Cheetahs!  Saving the Cheetah is at the heart of all we did at CCF, but CCF represents so much more to the people of Namibia.  I was surprised that CCF is a living, breathing, working farm where locals can learn better farming techniques and livestock protection.  I was humbled to contribute to the effort.  I leave here with a deeper appreciation for the Cheetah (Stitch and Senay in particular), a better understanding of the cyclical nature of conservation, and inspired to get more involved with CCF in the future.

I’m also kind of ecstatic that they’ll even be using some of my pictures. 


Stephanie Mantilla

I am a Zookeeper at the Houston Zoo and decided to come to CCF for my vacation.  I have wanted to volunteer at CCF since it opened but was only realistically able to plan my trip here within the last three years.  Cheetah conservation is the reason I got into my line of work so coming here has been a life-long dream fulfilled.  

I felt prepared for the workload at CCF since my daily job has many similarities but what I was surprised about was the numerous side-projects CCF is involved in that doesn’t make it into the media such as Bushblok and the many educational programs.  There is never a dull moment here and you can always find a project to get involved in.  Just in my two-week stay there was a litter of Anatolian shepherd puppies born, a French film crew filming, and a cheetah transport and work-ups for four cheetahs.

People from all backgrounds come here to volunteer including birding retirees, nurses, vet students, ex-lawyers, college students, photographers, and do-it-yourselfers.  My free time was spent sorting photographs from the many camera traps on-site.  Basically if you love cheetahs, you don’t need a certain skill set.  

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