Hi, my name is Erin and I am a senior animal care specialist working with cheetah at Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida. For the past two weeks, I’ve have the wonderful opportunity to volunteer at CCF and experience firsthand conservation in action as an Ambassador for the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund (SWBGCF). SWBGCF donates over $1million to various conservation organizations around the world including CCF while also sending select employees abroad to help with conservation directly.
My two weeks at CCF have been a life changing experience. With my background in animal care, I’ve primarily helped the husbandry staff care for the 50 resident cheetahs, most of which, for one reason or another, cannot be released into the wild. The cats are great but the staff that cares for them are truly incredible! They practically work from sun up to sun down ensuring that everyone is well fed and cared for – definitely not an easy thing to do with so many cats here. These two weeks have been full of memorable experiences but my favorite was getting to feed wild game to a group of female cheetahs. Nothing goes to waste here in Africa, and this experience demonstrated that.
I’ve also really enjoyed learning more about the education programs developed by CCF to help local farmers. Before coming here, I knew about the Livestock Guarding Dog Program but I didn’t realize how much other farming education (like routine medical care training and record keeping) CCF offers to farmers to improve their farming methods. They empower the farmers to better care for their livestock and successfully share the land with cheetah and other predators. The methods CCF teaches are ones that can, and should, be used worldwide to enable farmers and predators to live together in harmony.
Through this experience, I’ve gained a better understanding of the work of CCF and the challenges cheetah and other carnivores face. While I know there is more I can learn here and leaving the animals and staff will be difficult, I can’t wait to share my experiences and educate others about the wonderful work CCF is doing and how humans and predators can successful share this Earth.