Feeding a Wild Cheetah

Feeding a Wild Cheetah

Feeding a hungry “wild” cheetah a slab of donkey meat – all in a day’s job of husbandry. This wilder cats wait till we toss the meat over the fence before running away, hissing and pawing each other. We prepped the donkey meat before driving out of the CCF center. It takes us about an hour to reach this large enclosures where these beautiful cats roam. Yes, I am hand was covered in donkey blood and stayed that way for the rest of the work day.

Meeting Tiger Lily, an Ambassador Cheetah

Meeting Tiger Lily, an Ambassador Cheetah

I met Tiger Lily, one of the ambassador cheetahs at CCF. She is with Dr. Laurie Marker, the founder of CCF. Watching these animals run was one of the most brilliant experiences of my life!

This is a naked waterhole

I have been absent for a while. I was bouncing from place to place. My next project (after getting my computer up and running) is to sift through photos and share with you visual memories.

For now, I wanted to share with you what looking for animals feels like. This unedited photo (except for the words I stuck in) shows you what a bustling waterhole looks like from the naked eye, no zoom, no binoculars, just the eyes that you use to see. The animals are hard to see, but they are there! Let me know what you find 🙂


Washing a Water Hole

CCF has some man-made waterholes that are used to keep up one of the game farms. Game = animals such as warthog, giraffe, oryx, kudu, and eland. Anyway, they have man-made waterholes because the land is so dry and if the water holes weren’t there, the animals living in that area wouldn’t survive.

Guess what I got to do today? I got to wash a water hole. It. Was. Nasty. I felt like I was going to contract a disease by putting my mouth in animal slobber/algae water.

First of all, the water was green with algae. There was mud and scat (again!! what?) everywhere. Our first job was to get down on our hands and knees and scrub out all the algae from the water hole. Then we had to hoist the water out of the hole and scrub it again. We then had to rinse the edges of the hole to wash away all the scat. The worst part was the drain for the waterhole got stuck with sand. We literally had to put our fingers into the algae/sand tube and physically dig out the sand. I don’t even know. My hands were a mess. But hey! The animals were happy because the watering hole went from mud green to crystal clear!! Shall we say job well done?

Everything I do, I do it with poo

My working life at CCF centers around one thing: poo.

It’s all about Poop!

I apologize. The proper way to say poop is scat. My life in CCF is surrounded by scat day in and day out.

So much of the work here revolves scat. When you take care of animals, scat happens. Also, if you analyze scat, you get important information about the animal. You can find out their diet, possible diseases, and get a good sense of their health.

CCF has a nickname for scat. They call it “black gold.” Well, here is a list of all the ways that I deal with “black gold” on an almost daily basis:

1. Cleaning cheetah pens:

I take a rake, and rake the cheetah pens so that it is nice and neat for visitors to see. During this, if there is any scat on the ground, I pick it up and throw it away. Today’s scat was especially disgusting. It was sun-baked into the tree. I had to pry it off the tree. Once I lifted it, a swarm of ants came rushing out attacking me. Oh. Scat.

2. Cleaning goat/dog pens:

CCF has goats on its property because it is running a “model farm.” They use Anatolian shepherd dogs to guard the goats against predators such as cheetahs. This way, the local farmers will know not to shoot cheetahs. Well, goats and dogs make LOTS of scat. LOTS and LOTS. I do get to clean their pens too. With goats and dogs, you don’t get to pick up scat. You SHOVEL it off the ground. We take it out in wheel barrels.

3. Scat Detection Dogs:

CCF has trained dogs to sniff out wild cheetah scat. This is so that the labs can use the scat information for data and whatnot. I have gone on a scat detection session with Tiger, one of the scat detection dog. All you do is run after the dog as it sniffs through the wild African bush. Yup. Run. We also get to hide super smelly FROZEN cheetah scat in the wild while Tiger goes and looks for the scat. Part of training, I suppose.

4. Scat Walk:

CCF has some wild cheetahs. Every day we take a walk around some pens to see if we can gather wild cheetah scat. Once we found diarrhea on the floor and guess who had to pick it up? Gross.

5. Cheetah Scat Hair Burning:

We take scat that has been collected in the wild, we wash it (yes we do! in the laundry machine!) and then dry it so we can get all the tiny hairs in the scat. The hair is there because cheetahs are carnivores so they have animal fur in their scat. After drying, we find 10 little hairs to burn onto microscope slides. The smell, ladies and gentlemen, is something bordering on horrendous. At any rate, that’s scat hair burning for you!

When you work with animals, you work with scat. My life at CCF is all about poop. No lie.

What is a safari?

I guess I went on a safari this past weekend. No, it’s really not as cool as what I thought it was going to be. Safari basically means driving to go look for animals. It doesn’t matter what kind of car you are in.

At any rate, I went on a weekend trip to Etosha National Park. It was not what I expected. I went with a private company, so we didn’t get to ride the open air jeep that I always thought I would ride. I was in a Toyota. In the front seat.

I sound disappointed, don’t I? Well, I am a little I guess. I thought it was going to be filled with close encounters and whatnot, but it wasn’t. But, it definitely was an experience. For starters, I had the world’s most colorful guide. He kept badgering me about my personal life and made me listen to super offensive rap music (from American) during the drive from CCF to Etosha National Park.

The first day we drove around Etosha and it was a dry, dry landscape with grass and wind. Not much else. We saw giraffes, elands, kudu, zebras, springboks, and blue wildebeest. It was herbivore central. We went from waterhole to waterhole (all in a little toyota, mind you). In the afternoon, when I was about to give up all hope of seeing any big African animals — boom! There it was, sitting in the waterhole, splashing around the water was a herd of giant African elephants. There was a mother and her babies. They were rolling around, kicking the water, and having a good time. We drove to another waterhole and there was also another group of elephants who slowly walked to the waterhole and played with the water/ate grass.

You have be super patient with animals. Sometimes you see them. Sometimes you don’t.

On the way to the camp site (yup, you read that right), we saw an endangered black rhino munching on the side of the road. It disappeared when we pulled in closer.

I cannot believe that I camped in Africa. A thin little tent protecting me from all the elements of the African wilderness. Oh my goodness gracious. I was a little nervous but I was surrounded by other fancier campers from South Africa, so I figure animals would go bother the fancy neighbors as opposed to me.

After showering (a cold shower) and forgetting a towel to dry, my guide pulled me out of the tent and told me he found A HONEY BADGER!!!!! Yup. A honey badger. There was an angry little honey badger that was trolling the camp site looking for food and overturning trashcans. I took some pictures. It let me get quite close, but I had to be careful or he would bite me. Oh Mr. Honey Badger, you just don’t care about anything or anyone else.

Post-dinner I went down to the waterhole near the campsite and was greeted by a beautiful site! A bunch of black rhinos came down to the waterhole to drink. There was even a black rhino mother and baby. I sat there for almost 2 hours staring at the rhinos. They were gorgeous.

The next day, I was forced to get up with the sun. I wasn’t too happy about it. I was extremely tired. But, with luck, I saw lions! They were far, far away though. They weren’t close to the road at all. But we saw 2 prides of lions lie in the shade, sleeping. You couldn’t see them in the naked eye. You have to use binoculars. At one point, one of the lionesses was about to hunt, but she gave up.

So, that’s a safari in a nutshell. Not quite the swashbuckling Indiana Jones type drive and adventure I had imagined. You definitely get to see more animals on the Disneyland Jungle River Cruise. Hahaha. I mean. I know they are plastic. I think that it’s all chance and circumstance with animals. That might mean that I have to get back to Africa again for a close encounter.

Tomorrow I’m back to work – so far my schedule looks pretty empty. I am only scheduled for 1.5 hours of dog poop cleaning. Nothing with cheetahs. I am predicting LOTS and LOTS of office work tomorrow. Not looking forward to it.