Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cheetah. Fightah.

One of the great things we've done in Africa is spend a day at the Cheetah Conservation Fund near Otjiwarango, Namibia. Established in 1990 by American Dr. Laurie Marker, the Cheetah Conservation Fund strives to help cheetahs long-term by increasing awareness about the cheetah's plight and providing a safe haven for orphaned cats. They also do research and local education for farmers and students, and even provide working dogs for farms which will protect livestock, and in turn, effectively protect cheetahs from being culled by farmers.

The first thing we saw at CCF was the morning "cheetah run". Hermione, Harry, and Ron are three resident CCF cats that share a pen, and every morning get their exercise by effectively chasing a rag on a string at high speed -- a similar game one might play with a housecat, only deadlier. These cats chased the coloured rag at speeds of up to 45 kph over 500m shaped into a large square and were rewarded with scraps of meat at the end. To see a cheetah stalking prey and running at it (and towards you!) at high speed was impressive, awesome -- and also somewhat terrifying. One misstep and we could have been cheetah chow, since we were inside the pen with the trainers and volunteers.

After the cheetah run we drove into the larger resident cheetah pens for a safari, and paid a visit to some of the locals -- girls like Hershey, Toblerone, and Chanel, and the boys: Darwin, Livingstone, and Armani. These animals were rescued as oprhaned cubs after their mothers were killed, often by farmers who (wrongly) believed that their livestock were endangered by the presence of cheetahs. Now that these animals are fully grown, they can't be returned to the wild, because they were never properly trained to hunt by their mothers. Instead, they are fed and exercised every day at CCF -- they chase the feeding truck at high speed as their lunch is tossed from the back! Some of them will soon be traveling to the United States for breeding purposes.

Cheetahs are fascinating. They're beautiful, fast, and deadly -- just like me. (Haha.) They're also endangered, and for this reason, CCF will continue to exist for a long time.

Thanks, CCF, for helping our cheetahs and our planet.

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