Archive for September, 2009

Jackal hunting!

Don’t worry – no animals were hurt during or before the creation of this blog post.

A jackal got into the girl’s pen. We don’t know how, we don’t know when, but apparently he’s been grabbing old bones and is munching on them, but since it was probably a sick animal (maybe even infected with rabies) it had to get out. That’s why Anne and James prepared the dart gun and loaded some darts with tranquilizer. Before leaving we checked the fence, but didn’t see any apparent holes. Steven, a tour guide, claimed he saw the jackal at least two times in the morning, so we figured he’d still be there since jackals are most active during twilight. We then drove into the pen (actually it was Anne), with James on the back of the pickup and with Markus and my humble self sitting in the back and trying to find him. Unfortunately, the jackal didn’t show up during our visit, so we had to leave again with our business unfinished.

Apart from that we also got to lead some tourists from Hungary and Germany around. This was a nice experience, too… I feel like I know a lot, at least I could answer nearly any question they threw at me 😀

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A lazy day…

Well, not really lazy considering we still had to clean the goat pens (and one of them was already covered in poop again even though we cleaned that one yesterday!) and also trim some bushes on the sides of a road to the Waterberg plateau after we were done Rhino tracking. Again, this was quite a bit of work with lots of thorns scratching my legs, arms or ending up in my shoe’s sole.

Saturdays and Sundays are usually quite slow and there’s not a lot of work to do. I can finally sleep in! Work here is tiresome and I’m honestly not used to working that hard, let alone so long and on top of that in the sun, so that’s definitely appreciated. We’ve been proposed a new task, too, after Patricia originally had shooting cheetah ID pictures in mind – nothing solid yet, but apparently there are plans to create a YouTube channel with videos coming from a volunteer’s view. I’ll keep you updated on how this progresses.

Also, Minja, the cheetah that didn’t appear during our feeding at Bellebenno, did indeed show up today, so no worries, she’s been fed a nice piece of tasty meat.


Finally – cheetahs!

Today started just like any other day so far – I got to clean the goat pens. This time the largest one was to be cleaned as well as one other. Because we only have two shovels (of which one is about the size of a toy shovel) and two wheelbarrows (with one being… difficult to handle), this took us quite some time. Believe me, goats poop a lot.

We were about half an hour late when Matt came to fetch us for feeding. The “girls” – 17 female cheetahs in Bellebenno – needed to be fed, after all. Too bad I didn’t bring my camera with me because there were some really nice photo opportunities I thus missed. We actually fed only 16 cats, Minja (not to be confused with Nina, who was number 16) didn’t show up, probably because she was hiding from a “gang” of five females. Hopefully she’ll be hungry enough tomorrow to risk a trip to the gate where she’ll get food. Matt told me that if this were to go on, they’d have to lock the cheetahs that appeared into a smaller pen and then try to get her out to eat or, failing that, that volunteers needed to search the pen for her. As you see, the cheetahs here are all well-cared for. 😀

After lunch we got another task that was closely cheetah-related: we had to pick up cheetah poop and bones left over from previous meals. We got a tray full of poop-and-bones in the end, but working so close to the cheetahs that actually came to look at what we were doing was a great experience. We also fed the females in the pen close to the education center, but they didn’t really appreciate the meat today. Maybe they’re tired of donkey by now. 😉

Upon finishing these tasks and losing my cap on the road back (I got it back, though), we could see Little C standing on the hut in his pen. Another great photo opportunity. My thirst for new pictures is quenched. Well, maybe a little… for now.

The schedule for tomorrow is still to be announced, so I’ll just go to sleep now.


Getting to the CCF…

…is almost an adventure all by itself. After we had been picked up by our driver John, a cheetah tracker, we went for a quick ride to Windhoek where we would fetch Matti. So Markus, Sonja, Eva, Jourdan, Christina,  Matti and me squeezed into the suddenly not-too-spacious bus we had previously filled with our luggage. It wasn’t a particularly comfy ride, but after two tank stops and one at the Superspar supermarket we were directly on track to the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s headquarters. We arrived shortly before dinner started – quite neat considering that last time all the delays that had piled up on the way to the CCF caused us to arrive at midnight.

The first part of the following day was spent introducing us to the CCF’s goats and, as one would expect, letting us help clean the pens. Surely not one of my favourite jobs, especially because the goat’s constant baaing. Oh – and they’re not food for the cheetahs (these get horse and donkey meat, but more about that another time). Quite the contrary, actually, since the CCF has an important livestock management programme running. The goats are part of a model goat keeping farm that allows farmers to see how successful the ways of keeping predators off lifestock are. The most prominent example would be the Anatolian shepherd dogs the CCF breeds. These dogs grow up with goats, bonding them to these animals and thus making sure the dogs will fight to protect them. The dogs are then given away, still as puppies, to a farmer that then undergoes training in how to treat and care for such a dog. Since they obviously need to keep poachers away from the herd as well, not too much interaction with the dogs is allowed, so they eat and sleep with the animals they are supposed to guard and not with humans.

After lunch I was supposed to get onto the ride with a few of the other volunteers in order to check the cheetah enclosure’s fences. Too bad I didn’t show up… accidentally. Note t0 self: Afternoon activities start at 14:00, not at 15:00. I then went and assisted Eva with cutting some videos Laurie was aiming to get exported for her two-month trip to India. The crappy (read: slow) Macbook Air took its time, though, and iMovie wasn’t exactly helpful either. Had I known before, I would’ve been able to help using my Laptop and decent DVD authoring and cutting software. Well, maybe next time, if there’s one.

The second day started in a similar manner: Clean the goat pens, their water troughs needed to be scrubbed and refilled. After that I really didn’t have anything to do for a while because I was supposed to be scanning, but Leigh, our volunteer coordinator, didn’t really know what I should scan. She then got me another job, but this one was cancelled as well, so I just sat around for a while and typed an email full of suggestions and comments to Patricia Tricorache, one of CCF’s biggest helpers and an important person when it comes to media and advertising on the web. After a while I then got my original assignment back, and started scanning the Cheetah Studbook, which are records of how cheetahs in different zoos all around the world are related to each other, ultimately allowing keepers and management to look for the most distant relatives in order to try to get some diversity back into the cheetah’s genetic pool. Since there are not many left, and because less cheetahs means less diversity (especially in the wild), this is an important effort that I’m gladly supporting. After lunch we then headed out (not too far, actually) in order to clear the Hot Spot’s waterhole (this is close to where the staff and volunteers eat). This was a ton of work, especially since my cutters didn’t quite work as I wanted them to. Yet, I was able to (almost) singlehandedly remove 1.9 acacia bushes. And trust me on this one: stepping on the thorns isn’t funny unless you have a steel sole on your footwear. Suffice it to say I didn’t. I still have a thorn about two millimeters wide stuck inside my sole, although it’s not protruding through the shoe itself and I thus didn’t even feel it. After dinner we decided to join the others in a movie evening and watched Blood Diamond. Good thing Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t look like Leonardo DiCaprio in that movie. The fact it had a cheetah in it made the film even better.

Today commenced with another goat pen cleaning. This time we even had to clean two, with one being the easier one because it had a lot of hay on the ground. The other pen, however, was a bit more difficult to clean since it was mostly dust and gravel we shoveled into our wheel barrows. Too bad we didn’t have a sieve, because there really wasn’t that much excrement left. While Markus got to get some pictures of himself while replacing films and batteries of camera traps, where I was originally supposed to go with him, I got to do some data entry. Together with the new French volunteer Adeline we looked at the past pictures of those traps and entered time, date (where visible – red on red-ish sand isn’t very legible) as well as species of the animal(s) photographed – if any, the cameras are sometimes taking pictures without visible reason – into an Excel spreadsheet. Some of the highlights were leopards as well as cheetahs known as the Wild Boys, two brothers that tend to hang around CCF property a lot. James then asked Sonja, Adeline, Markus and me to design a new poster for one of the Education Center’s information tables since there’s been a hole in the wall for quite some time. We didn’t quite get anything ready yet, but I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

So far, so good. I’m still looking forward to doing anything directly cheetah-related, but I’ll hopefully go feed the females in Bellebenno tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted on how it works out!


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