The Cheetah Park
Cheetahs in Namibia are plentiful and are not protected. They kill considerable numbers of livestock and farmers are allowed to shoot them. Some farmers however are keeping cheetahs in large fenced tracts of land, preferring to try and conserve them for a future when they may not be so numerous in the wild. We went to one such park where the farmer and his family now protect the cheetahs.
Our first view was of the orphaned, baby giraffe happily munching some vegetation at the gate to the house. How often can you pat a giraffe!
Next we were let in through the gate to have three pet cheetahs wander all around us. Another photo op! We could pat them, but only around the head and chin - and keep your face at arm's length when doing so. The fur was a surprise; coarse and very thick, it felt rather like a rough carpet or even a doormat. These sleek, lean running machines can get pretty tetchy even though they have been raised as pets from a very young age. And between us and a crowd of young people who arrived in an overland truck, it wasn't too long before the cheetahs got a bit sick of it all and didn't want to be patted anymore. And when cheetahs don't want to do something, ain't nobody gunna make them.
Because the wild cheetahs are in a large but nonetheless enclosed area, it is necessary for them to be fed every day. Everyone piled into the back of two trucks and we drove to the "wild" area. The moment we approached, cheetahs came running; the moment the gate was opened, two of them slipped through. The drivers managed to round them up and herd them back into the compound, but the animals snarled and hissed and lunged at them constantly.
The drive along the dirt track saw more and more cheetahs appear as if from nowhere. Their coats camouflage them amazingly in the tall grass and bush surroundings. They snapped and snarled, hissed and lashed out at each other. You reach the undeniable conclusion that, if you were caught alone out here, you would have no hope whatever against even one of these superb hunting machines.
Large lumps of donkey meat, complete with fur, were tossed into the air. Cheetahs leapt skyward and came down in a tangled mess of spotted fur and snapping teeth. Fights ensued if two grabbed a piece at the same time. Once in its jaws, the winning animal took off a short distance to crouch in the grass and consume its prize. Soon all around us, scattered through the long grass, were prone, spotted lumps noisily chewing their closely guarded treasures.