Following my life and work at the Cheetah Conservation Fund


To the Stars


I arrived at CCF on the evening on the 29th of June, and it had not at all been a good day at CCF. In fact, it most likely was one of the worst and blackest days in CCF’s history. Sometime during the afternoon of the 28th a group of 3 cheetahs known as the Stars (composed of two males, Phoenix and Quasar, and one female, Soraya) managed to escape from their enclosure.

The mother of these 3 had been killed by a farmer while she was pregnant and after he shot her he noticed her belly moving so he cut her open and pulled out 4 cubs. When CCF first got hold of the cubs they were not at all in good health so only 3 of the 4 survived, but ever since they had all been really healthy living a comfortable life in CCF’s superb care. As they came to us at such a young age they of course had to be bottle fed and thus had remained habituated and bonded to their human caretakers and us to them. I was completely ignorant at the time as I was 300 kilometers away in Windhoek, but the morning of the 29th started with news that a cheetah was out of its enclosure. Phoenix had managed to wander all the way to the goat pens once CCF staff found him. He was noticeably confused but all right so they managed to get him back to the enclosure without too much ordeal.

Then the search for Quasar and Soraya began. Not long after, Quasar was found but he had been severely injured most likely due to an accident while hunting a warthog. CCF’s vet team immediately responded with a 4 hour surgery and overall it went well, but tragically a few hours later during recovery Quasar’s heart gave out. We think he had just lost too much blood than he could handle. One of CCF’s brightest lights was snuffed out that day but Quasar’s memory will live on and will be reflected forever in the work that we do here at CCF to save one of the world’s greatest treasures.

Soraya has yet to be found. We looked for an entire week and still are, but haven’t found anything. Out of the three she was most likely to survive on her own in the wild so we like to think that she has chosen a wild life for herself and hope that she is doing well living free at last. As you can see in these photos, the view of the stars over CCF is incredible. A new Star, CCF’s Quasar, has been added to that beautiful mosaic, there to remind all of us who fight for those who cannot fight for themselves to continue on with our mission regardless of what obstacles come our way. June 29th, 2013 hit us hard but we press on, determined as ever.

– Eli


Quasar on the run!



Hello again…

Wow! Almost an entire year has passed since my last post, and for that I am sorry. The past year has been crazy and so much has happened so I’ll do my best to quickly get y’all back up to speed with what’s been going on.

The 2012-2013 school year was my senior year of college so I’m happy to say that I’m now a college graduate holding a Bachelors of Science with two majors; Wildlife Biology and Captive Wildlife Care and Education. My senior year was crazy between 16 credit hours; an extra 3 credits that I sat in on voluntarily (without receiving the credits as I wasn’t officially enrolled in the course); and my senior thesis but it was a great last year for sure. I graduated on May 18th (as Valedictorian by the way 😉 ) and have since been at home getting things ready for the next chapter, which is, of course, the best news of all!

Earlier this year, the Cheetah Conservation Fund offered me a full-time position as a research technician! I obviously accepted (as the new blog title takes into account), so tomorrow evening I’ll be headed off to Namibia to start my first job post-graduation. Words can’t describe my excitement and I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be. Every trip to Namibia previously has always had an end date to which I regrettably counted the days. This time however, there is no set end date and that is a great feeling for sure. I will try to make updates regularly (definitely no year log gaps this time!) about what’s going on in Namibia so I hope you’ll all follow along, as it’s going to be great! Please feel free to share and remember that you can subscribe to get email updates! Talk to you all soon!

– Eli

To the wild!

A few weeks ago, CCF released four previously captive cheetahs into Erindi Private Game Reserve where they have began their lives anew in the wild! These four boys, called the “Leopard Boys,” were re-wilded earlier this year and Erindi offered to provide them a new home. The boys were all darted and fitted with VHF radio collars (so they could be tracked and monitored on a daily basis in their new home) and loaded up into transport boxes for the 2 hour trip to Erindi. The release went great and Ryan Sucaet, the head of CCF’s re-wilding program, monitored them for the 2 weeks following the release. He is now back at CCF and reports that the boys are doing great on their own in the wild!

one of the Leopard Boys feeling a little tired after being darted

two of the VHF collars ready to go

clinic staff doing the work-up on one of the Leopard Boys

Recently, I added a new feature to the ambassador’s enclosure. Cheetahs enjoy places where they they can see long distances, so I built a very large mound in their enclosure. It’s taller than the fence so when they are on top, they see over the fence with no obstruction to their view. From it they have a full 360˚ view and most definitely enjoy spending their time up there (as you can see from the pictures below). When we first let them out into the enclosure with the mound, they made a B-line for it and have since been spending many hours lounging on top.

Last week I drove on a field count (a method for estimating prey abundances in our big field) and on the way back from the count I managed to get a few great pictures of a Kori Bustard taking flight. These birds are massive so when they first take off it’s like watching a commercial airline jet taking off.

Kori Bustard taking flight

male korhaan in the big field

male korhaan in flight

Sorry it has taken so long for me to get a new post up, but finding extra time isn’t always the easiest here at CCF. As always, I’m happy to answer any questions and I’m open to any comments. Until next time…


Kaijay looking silly 🙂

view of the Waterberg from CCF’s water towers

Time flies…

It’s hard to believe that I’ve now been here at CCF for an entire month. So much has happened but it still doesn’t feel like I’ve been back that long. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? Lots of pictures in this post so just keep scrolling!

last post was a picture of the stars…. this time it’s a picture of the moon

So a couple of weeks ago I was working in the ambassadors’ enclosure just doing basic yard work (cleaning, trimming branches, etc.). I left to get a tool and when I got back waiting for me right where I just had been working was a puff adder. This snake is responsible for killing more people than any other in Africa so I was quite startled to see him there…. literally right were I was just standing a moment earlier. We caught him and then released him on our airstrip where I managed to get a few decent photos (see below). Puff adders are beautiful snakes and I’ve only seen one before, so it was great to get some photos of him. Next on the list… black mamba, boomslang, and spitting cobra!

Recently I’ve been trying out different recipes for ice-cream with milk from CCF’s own dairy goats. We already make cheese and fudge, but because we never get ice-cream here in Namibia I decided to make it myself. It’s not yet perfected but it’s coming along and hopefully sometime soon we will have a great recipe for ice-cream that we can sell to the public. CCF now has around 50 dairy goats (as opposed to the 7 or so last summer) and therefore we have a lot of milk to use everyday.

one of CCF’s dairy goats

one of the many dairy goat kids

Back in April during annuals (full medical check ups on all the cheetahs here at CCF done yearly), our vet team removed a mast cell tumor from one of the ambassador cheetahs Tiger Lily. Unfortunately, the tumor returned within a month and last Wednesday we had to remove it again. The surgery went very well and there were no complications. Our vet Gaby and her team did a fantastic job at removing the tumor and all we can do now is hope that it doesn’t come back. After surgery Stephanie (one of the ambassador’s handlers) and I spent all day ensuring that Tiger recovered fully. She was up in 20 minutes after being injected with the reversal but was still very drugged up so we were there to just ensure that she didn’t hurt herself and incase anything did happen. She made a full recovery and is now doing just fine (pictures below).

taking blood samples

the mast cell tumor on Tiger’s right foreleg compared to a scalpel

we thought she would most like a pink bandage with hearts haha… she hasn’t torn it off yet so I guess we were right 🙂

Tiger in recovery after surgery

That’s it for now. I’ll try and post another up date within the next week or two but no guarantees. Below are some pictures of the ambassadors that I thought you might enjoy. As always I am open to any comments and happy to answer any questions. CCF has a Facebook page which you can visit by clicking here. This is a great place to stay up to date with what’s going on here at CCF, so I encourage everyone to “like” our page. If you’d like to support the work we do here, please visit our website at to find out how you can get involved or donate (every little bit truly makes a difference). Until next time….

– Eli

paw in the face but obviously didn’t seem to mind

no worries…. just a yawn (if you look closely you can see the individual barbs on the tongue)

looks really grumpy here…. but again it was just a yawn

First Week

Every time I return to CCF, things are always a bit different than when I left. It is really interesting to see what changes and what stays the same during the few months that I am away. The main difference is probably the people at CCF. The staff are relatively constant, but there is always a new group of volunteers and interns when I return. You sometimes miss the friends you made that have already left, but there are always new people to meet. CCF draws people from around the world so you never know who you are going to meet.

I’ve just finished my first week back, but so much has already happened. I’ve started to fall back into my place here at CCF… doing cheetah runs, helping with the various maintenance jobs, center feeding, working with CCF’s ambassador cheetahs, driving for field/strip counts, etc. We are always very busy but it’s great!

This summer is going to be a bit different than last because I’ll be conducting my senior thesis research whilst here. Cheetahs use large trees throughout the bush as scent posts for territory establishment, breeding behavior, and other social behaviors. We call these trees “playtrees” and because they play such an important role in cheetah biology, they make great sites for us to study and collect data on cheetahs. Though we understand what cheetahs use playtrees for and how we use playtrees to study cheetahs, we aren’t sure what characteristics of these trees are important for cheetahs. So what characteristics of playtrees themselves are cheetahs looking for when they decide which trees to use? My project this summer will be to determine these “explanatory” characteristics, as a thorough understanding of these playtrees themselves will help us focus our study of cheetahs and will improve management/conservation of wild cheetah populations.

I’m just in the initial stages of this project, but I will keep you posted on its progress and development over the coming months. I’ve had the time to get some photos you might enjoy which I’ve posted below (including a couple from the most recent re-wilding: click here for more information). CCF is a non-profit organization so we rely completely on private donations for all of the work we do. So if you are interested in supporting CCF, visit the website at to find out how. Remember you can subscribe to this blog at the bottom of this page for an email notification any time I post something new. As always, I’m happy to answer any questions I can. Until next time…

– Eli

cheetah spots up-close

Peter chasing the lure

the African night sky…. this is how the night sky is supposed to look

Bee Eater


Ryan (head of CCF’s re-wildling program) boxing Padme and Bella for re-widling

Bella guarding her warthog carcass just after release

Padme and Bella standing over their last free meal just after release

At CCF!!!

After 4 months I have finally made it back to CCF! School ended during the second week of May, I was home in Georgia for a week and then left for Africa. I arrived two nights ago and it already feels as if I never left. Things are busy as always and I’m starting to get back into the routine of life and work at CCF. As I have only been back for a couple of days now I don’t have much to report, but expect loads of pictures and video in the near future!

– Eli

Run video uploaded

Hello, I knew that I said there wouldn’t be another post until May, but because I said I might put together some video of the cheetahs running at CCF I just wanted to let everyone know that you can view that video at the link below. Everyone should subscribe to CCF’s Youtube channel so that you are notified whenever a new video is uploaded (we have one in the works right now). Many of the more recent videos on CCF’s channel, I have created… so if you are interested many of the other things taking place at CCF, you can view them there as well. All the best…

Okakarara cubs’ first Big Field run


Back in the States

So I apologize for not posting updates as frequently as I would have liked, but at CCF everyone is always so busy it’s sometimes hard to find time to do it. This will again be my last post for a while, however fortunately I will be returning to CCF in May for a second internship and thesis work so I will pick up the blog again and continue on. I’m very excited to be going back, but I have a few months to wait first, but you can expect new posts around mid to late May.

So as the title says, I’m now back in the States and at school. The last week or so of my stay at CCF this past trip was as exciting as always. All of the interns and some of the staff did another Waterberg hike which was a lot of fun. Things look so different in the summer than they do in the winter because everything is so green. I’ll post a picture of the Waterberg from this past trip, but if you want to see what I’m talking about just look back to some of the Waterberg pictures from earlier posts during the summer.

My last day at CCF (last Wednesday) we ran the OK Ambassadors in the big field for the first time. Suzie and I spent much of the day making the preparations for the run, and that evening after most everyone finished their work, we loaded up and headed out to the big field. The run went great and the “cubs” loved it. Mar, an intern from Holland, took some great video which I got from her, so hopefully we can put something together and have it uploaded for everyone to see. I was hoping to take pictures of the run, however I forgot to charge my camera batteries (which was very stupid of me) so I was unable to do so, but it was great just watching them run. They are by far the fastest runners we have at CCF and they are still only 16 months old!

Thanks everyone for following along, I know there isn’t much in this post but I’ll try to make up for it with pictures. If anyone has any questions please just let me know. CCF relies on support from people like you and if it wasn’t for the support from private donations, CCF would not exist today. So please, if you are interested, visit CCF’s website at and find out how you can get involved. There are so many ways to help, so regardless of who you are there is something you can do to help. Thanks again and I look forward to posting in May! Until then…

– Eli

Cheetah sculpture outside CCF’s museum
Waterberg Plateau during the summer
lonely tree on top of the Waterberg
our Waterberg hike group
The group before our New Years game drive
Baby Kori Bustard and mother… no one we talked to had seen a baby before. This might be one of the best pictures I have ever taken.
close up of the baby
the OK Ambassadors feeding
Kaijay and Peter

Cheetahs need Frontline too…

With the summer season comes loads of insects, including ticks and cheetah flies (cheetah equivalent of the flea). At home with our domestic pets, we typically use Frontline to help rid them of these pests and to make things more comfortable for them. Though cheetahs are wild animals and are by NO means anyone’s pet, Frontline works on them too! So today, Suzie (the ambassadors’ current primary caretaker) and I applied Frontline to the four OK ambassadors and Dr. Marker applied it to the three Stars (Phoenix, Quasar, and Soraya). These 7 animals are really the only ones here at CCF that we could do this to without anesthesia or some other restraint, so unless another cat comes in for a workup or something similar, they will probably be the only ones to get the Frontline. We hope that it will keep them more comfortable and pest free for at least a few weeks. That’s it for now, so from everyone here at CCF, have a happy New Year!!!

– Eli

** Just to make a quick correction… Juliette, our lead cheetah keeper, has been working regularly with the cats so that they can be front lined. So hopefully by mid-week, all the cheetahs here at CCF will have gotten Frontline! **


Tiger Lily

Christmas in Africa

Even though we are out in the middle of no where, 40 minutes from the closest town, Christmas is something to be celebrated, and here at CCF we did just that. On Christmas Eve, we went out to the big field and had dinner which was a lot of fun. We enjoyed everyone’s company, great food, and watched the sun go down. The sky in Namibia during the summer is incredible and I’ve never seen it like it is here before. On Christmas Day everyone relaxed, though some of the cheetahs still had to be fed. We had a Christmas brunch and once the few jobs for that day had been completed, we all went to Laurie’s house to watch the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. That evening we had hamburgers cooked by Bruce, which were wonderful. Although it was very different than Christmas at home, it was still a very enjoyable experience and I think everyone here at CCF had a wonderful Christmas. From CCF, hope everyone had a great Christmas and has a wonderful New Year!!!

– Eli