Following my life and work at the Cheetah Conservation Fund

Off to a great start!

This is the view from inside one of the main center’s enclosures where we do the cheetah runs. In the background is the Waterberg Plateau.

So I have been here at the CCF for about a week and a half now and so much has happened! Since I have arrived, I have had the opportunity to do so much and have experienced so many things. After orientation on my first day here I jumped right into things and immediately began work. I started off with more broad assignments until we decided where I fit in here at CCF. So far I have been involved with cheetah husbandry, guardian dog and goat care, general maintenance work (landscaping, and automotive work), some computer work (still in this process, and will be for a while), and one of my favorite jobs… cheetah runs.

Here at the CCF we have just over 50 resident cheetahs. When assigned with cheetah husbandry, we start off by preparing the meat for the cats and any meds that the cats may need (right now we only have two cheetahs who need meds). Our local Namibian farmhands take care of cutting the meat into proper portions but we have to count the pieces and make sure there is enough and that they are suitable. Overall on average it takes about 1 donkey (which are bought from local farmers) per day to feed all the animals under our care. However, we do often times have other sorts of meat come in that we most definitely utilize. Last week we had giraffe (which lasted for a few days) and I think I saw an oryx in the meat room as well. CCF is composed of multiple farms and on each of those farms there are multiple “camps” or enclosures in which all the cheetahs are spread throughout (as I mentioned in the earlier post). So once we have all the food prepared and ready to go, we load it up in a vehicle and typically start out our day at either the Eland camp, which is right next to the main center, or the Bellebeno camp which is about at 30 minute drive from the main center. During the drive to Bellebeno, we typically get great views of a lot of wildlife because we pass a couple of waterholes. We never leave CCF property and all the cheetahs we currently have are located in the closest farms to CCF so you can imagine the size of CCF’s property. The cats at Bellebeno are currently the furthest captive cats from the main center and they are candidates for release into the wild, which is very exciting. It typically takes the husbandry team 9-12 and 2-3 to feed all of the cats outside of the main center. At the main center we have 8 cheetahs (4 males, 4 females) that are fed where visitors and guests can observe, which provides great opportunities for education and interpretation. I really enjoy feeding, but it is only one part of the work that goes on here at CCF.

Here at CCF, one of the most important and effective conservation programs we have in operation is the Livestock Guarding Dog program. We have 8 dogs here at the CCF main center which we use for breeding so that the pups can be donated to the local farmers. For more information on how this program works, click here. Along with the dogs, we have a large herd of goats and sheep, which we primarily have for training purposes. Basically, to prevent farmers from killing cheetahs and other predators (which is one of the cheetah’s greatest threats) CCF donates Anatolian Shepherds to the farmers. These dogs are actually guarding dogs rather than shepherd dogs and very effectively protect the herd from any predator. Along with the dogs we have a large herd of goats and sheep, which we primarily have for training purposes. However, CCF has recently been making goat cheese from goat milk harvested from our goats.

As I am sure you know, the cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal. Everything about the cheetah’s physiology is designed for speed and therefore it is important for the cat’s health to get regular exercise. At CCF we exercise our cats by running them with a lure machine, similar to the ones used for greyhound racing. I have recently began helping with the cheetah runs and it is a job that I enjoy very much. We typically do the runs in the morning a couple of times a week, but we have done runs for the OK Cubs (ambassador cheetahs in training) in the evening. I have included pictures of the cheetah run and the lure machine we use below.

I have posted a lot of pictures for everyone to see. Read the captions for more information on what you are seeing.

Thanks so much for reading and please comment and feel free to ask questions! I would love to answer any questions that anyone might have. Until next time…

– Eli

One of the girls waiting to run
Run in progress…. here the cats can only get up to about half speed before they have to make a turn.

We often see giraffe on our way to Bellebeno camp to feed. They are the most curious animals that frequent the waterholes.
Zebra are rather skittish when compared to giraffe and would only stop to investigate in the cover of the trees.
This is an oryx, which we see all the time. They are like the whitetail deer of Africa.
Typically we drive into the camp and run the cheetahs behind the truck before feeding, but this day we couldn’t because of the vehicle we had. So we just tossed the meat over the fence, being careful not to hit the cats.

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7 responses

  1. HEIMERDINGER

    It’s really nice from you to share your beautiful experience at CCF. really interesting ! Thanks

    June 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm

  2. Cassandra

    Eli- Looks like you are having an amazing time. I am so jealous of you! Great photos! You’re an awesome writer too.

    June 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    • ehwalker91

      Thanks…. not too sure about the writing though, haha

      June 10, 2011 at 4:37 am

  3. Really incredible pictures. You must have gotten your brother’s 7D. I love the trio of pictures with the giraffe, zebras, and oryx all checking you out.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    • ehwalker91

      Thanks…. unfortunately my brother’s camera wasn’t available but one of the interns has a Canon Rebel T3 which takes awesome pictures.

      June 10, 2011 at 4:34 am

  4. brigitte

    Thanks Eli; It’s wonderfull reading you. I am French and my english is not perfect, excuse me! Can you tell us how are Sorraya, Phoenix and Qeysar? Do they run lure? Are they always together in enclosure because of male and female? Last year I spent 2 days at CCF and I saw them running the lure. I dream visiting again CCF in role of volonteer.

    June 17, 2011 at 10:53 am

    • ehwalker91

      Hey Brigitte!!!
      The Stars (the cheetahs you are asking about) are doing great! We haven’t run them on the lure in a couple of weeks but we will soon. They are healthy and the boys are very very big! It’s great to hear that you loved CCF so much. I hope sometime you do get to come to CCF as a volunteer. Let me know if you have any more questions!

      June 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm

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