Namibia '97- Helping Cheetahs
Helping CCF Help Cheetahs
by Brenda Peterson, Patrick Viehover, Brittany McConnell & Alexis Newman
An exciting part of our trip was how we became involved in and learned about what the Cheetah Conservation Fund does. CCF affects the survival of the Cheetah in many ways. They conduct weekly, official game counts to monitor the migration of all animals on their ranch. This helps provide data used in preserving migratory routes and in setting trophy hunting quotas. We were able to participate in one of these runs, driving a marked course all over the ranch, recording the species, sex and location of all the animals we could find.
CCF also works at educating the local farmers. Cheetahs have always been considered vermin and shot on sight as cattle killers. But often the Cheetah has not been the culprit. They much prefer game animals who exhibit the familiar prey behavior instead domesticated cattle. With CCF's help, the farmers have become more aware of this and now often capture the Cheetahs and allow CCF to provide examinations, vaccinations and medical attention. The Cheetah is then either returned to the farmer or rereleased into the wild, hopefully in an area where they will be safe from recapture.
While we were there, CCF took in several captured Cheetahs. They needed help examining and treating them. Four of the US teens and 3 Namibian teens were nominated by the group to assist the staff of CCF handson with research examinations on 3 Wild Cheetahs. We were selected because of our career interests in working with animals.
After one was sedated, we weighed him and measured every possible part of his body. We then helped collect samples of fur, blood, skin and semen from the cat. Then he was vaccinated and his wounds treated.
Before this trip we went to Marine World to have a publicity shot taken with a Cheetah. It seemed incredible then just to be standing next to a live Cheetah and petting it.
Now our perspective has really changed. We have helped care for living cats that would be returned to the wild, intimately connected to them and helping ensure the species' survival.
St. Francis of Assisi wrote:
"If you have men who will exclude any of God's Creatures
from the shelter of pity and compassion,
they will deal likewise with their fellow man."
This quote hangs on the wall of the Cheetah Conservation Fund Examining room. It really caught my attention when the 7 of us went down to help examine three male Cheetahs. They were all caught on a nearby farm. CCF had permission to examine the Cheetahs, but had to return them afterward. The farmer had sold them to his neighbor. I didn't understand how that was possible--Cheetahs are wild. Aaron, a biologist volunteering at CCF, explained that you own them if they are on your land, so the farmer could do whatever he wanted to with them. This made me feel frustrated that the Cheetahs aren't protected by laws to keep them free.
It was a great opportunity to get to be that close to a wild animal, knowing we were trying to help. I feel such a compassion since I was able to experience their beauty by by examining the wild Cheetahs, and by watching Chewbaaka, CCF's tame Cheetah, run. They are such magnificent animals. It's hard to imagine that some people can possess such a lack of understanding, and through that lack may cause the Cheetah to become extinct. We feel proud that what little we were able to do, may help the Cheetah from going to a permanent grave.
by Patrick Viehoever U.S.
Today the entire group of American and Namibian youth got to attend the medical examination of a wild male cheetah, caught on a nearby farm. We rotated through in groups and got to look at what was happening for a short time. It was a very interesting and rewarding experience. Later on, as an incredible addition,a few of the die-hard animal lovers in the group (Brenda, Matt, Brittany, and I) were invited back in the evening for another medical session that we got to attend start to finish, and participate in fully. I got to carry the wild adult male cheetah to the scale, and then to the exam table. He weighed about 92 1/2 pounds, and was much larger than the previous one. We got to help while the medical staff took measurements, collected blood, tissue, and semen samples, and vaccinated the cat. We got to look in its mouth, listen to the breathing and heart beat, comb his fur, and play with his feet and tail. It was an incredible experience. I've been to Marine World, in California, and seen their cheetahs, but it isn't the same as being able to hold and work with a wild cheetah that will be released back into the wilderness of Africa. You can never get the same type of intimate contact or experience with zoo animals that happens here at CCF on a daily basis.