Gottfriedt and I decided to take a day trip to Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), which is situated right outside Otjiwarongo, a town not far from Etosha, to see the Cheetahs there. CCF is a non-profit organization that works with research and conservation of the cheetah. Among other things, they help injured cheetahs and they take care of baby cheetahs that were left alone after their mothers were killed by farmers. CCF's mission is to release most of the cheetahs to bigger areas, but some cheetahs are too tame to ever be released, so these cheetahs will stay at the sanctuary and be a part of a research and teaching program.
The sanctuary was really beautiful with a nice garden and houses. First we met our tour guide that first showed us four young cheetahs in an enclosure. They had been found as three weeks old, after their mother was killed by a farmer. CCF cared for them, bottle fed them and now they are very used to humans. For that reason, they will never be released into the wild, and will be used as ambassadors for CCF instead. They were really beautiful and playful, and you could see they enjoyed the company of their siblings.
After watching the first cheetahs, we checked out CCF's museum and learning centre. There they had a film playing, a lot of pictures on the walls and the history of the cheetah. It was really interesting to see. We joined our tour guide further to the cheetah enclosures. It was time to feed the cheetahs, but first we were allowed to witness a cheetah run. CCF had a machine with long strings and with a red cloth to simulate an animal. When they started the machine, the red cloth moved around in the grass. That triggered the cheetahs to start running after the cloth. It was really nice to see this amazing animal, doing what it is built to do, running! And they ran fast! CCF wanted to let the cheetahs experience this to trigger natural behaviour and to get some exercise.
After the run, they started the feeding. Every cheetah got their own bowl with horse or donkey meat. They were fed once a day the whole week, except for Sundays. The cheetahs were really hungry, running to the bowls and grabbing the meat with their mouth. Some started fighting about a piece of meat, but in all the feeding went really smooth.
When I was at Harnas I didn't think that much about the fact that most animals was in enclosures, limited to perform their natural behaviour. I had never seen an animal in the wild in Africa before, so I didn't have anything to compare it with. After being two weeks in Etosha now, I'm more and more against wild animals in enclosures and cages. Healthy and strong animals should be out on open plains on the African savannah, capturing their own dinner, sleep in the tall grass in the sun, play with others of their same kind and perform their natural behaviour. So when I saw these cheetahs in small enclosures, it really made me sad. But there is something that I like about CCF, and that is that they have a plan, and they are doing something to make the situation better! Some of the cheetahs will never be released, and the staff is open about this for tourists and telling us as it is. These cheetahs got a second chance to live because of CCF. But to let these animals have a meaningful life too, CCF have started a research and teaching program for farmers and kids, where they can visit CCF, see how cheetahs look like, how they behave and learn more about this predator. CCF has also started a breeding program with the Anatolian shepherd dog, a large dog breed in the same size as the cheetah. These dogs grow up with CCF's life stock, and are trained to guard the herd. Later, they are donated to farmers that have a problem with cheetahs. In this way, the farmers and CCF is working together, to protect both the cheetah and the life stock, so farmers and cheetahs can live side by side. They have successfully released many cheetahs in their own farm area, and to other parts of Namibia, and they have donated hundreds of dogs to farmers. They are really doing a good job!