Saturday, June 14, 2008

African Adventure: Cheetah Conservation Fund, visitis with namibian School children, and a close cheetah encounter! (Feb 6-9)

Current Location: Otjivarongo
Highlights: Meeting Namibian school children, and a close encounter with a cheetah.
Current GPS Coordinates:LAT: S 20. 48. 59 LONG: E 17.03.35
Check out: the special diary entry about growing up in Namibia by Namibian school children.

We left the Bushman village and headed south to Otjivarongo and the cheetah reserve. Our original plan was to head north into the Caprivi strip to cross into Botswana, but the fighting in that area made us change our plans and head back south to cross into Botswana on the road to Ghanzi east out of Windhoek. This was actually a blessing as we could spend some time at the Cheetah Reserve and meet some Namibian school children.

The cheetah reserve is called the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). They own a second farm called Cheetah View which is used by a US organization called Round River to run conservation biology courses where US students come out for a term. At the moment, the program is run by Dr. Rich Geo and Jerry and Ally. Its a fantastic program and a very exciting place to be. As well as conservation biology, they also have a very active education program with the people in the local community. This is a crucial aspect of cheetah conservation. We were lucky as a group from a local school were coming is do some research, so I asked them each to write something about growing up in Namibia and have included this in a special diary entry together with a picture of each of the students. They had never seen a digital camera or used a computer.

Perhaps the highlight of our visit was my close encounter with one of the cheetah. They have a tame cheetah that can't be released back into the wild and so he is used as the "ambassador" for the cheetah and in the active education program. His name is "Chewbaka". I was allowed to go into his huge enclosure and stoke him. It was incredible, he strolled up to me, and just like a cat, rubber his heat on my leg. As I stroked him , he started to purr loudly, then rolled on his back and began to play with my foot with his paws. This is where the similarity with a cat ends, as his paws are HUGE and his claws are always out. DID YOU KNOW THAT CHEETAHS, UNLIKE OTHER CATS DO NOT HAVE RETRACTABLE CLAWS? After a few days at Cheetah View and some routine maintenance on the Landy we headed off south to Windhoek, and then on towards the Botswana border.

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