Africa Trip – Day 1 Cheetah Experience

June 6, 2017

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Joey with one of the caracals.

Today was our first day at Cheetah Experience! We woke up at 7:15 and showered, got dressed, had a quick bowl of cereal, and packed our backpacks for the day. At around 7:40 we were greeted by Emily, another volunteer, who brought us to the shuttle that would take us to the farm.

Once we were there, we locked our bags in a locker and headed out for our first chore assignment with Blythe: poop scooping. We walked all over the yard but we had no luck finding anything to scoop. However, while on my quest, I nearly ran into Feila. She is the cheetah who inspired this entire project. She’s a bit of an old lady now and isn’t too lovey so I watched her sunbathe for a few moments before continuing on. Before I headed back I went to the farthest end of yard 1 where the cheetah enclosures begin and Dew, one of the cheetahs with the loudest purrs, walked along side the fence with me.

Our next task was cleaning up the meerkat enclosures. We were supposed to look for poop but didn’t find any as it blends in quite well and is very small. We did find quite a few chicken bones though. The meerkats were very testy as we walked around their enclosure. They would run along your shoes and act as though they wanted attention but as soon as you go to pet them they would squeak and run away. When we went to throw the bones and debris into the large dumpster (which smelled absolutely rancid), there was a full white cow in there. I’m assuming the meat wasn’t good to give to the animals so they had to throw it out. Anyways, an old woman who was with us, and new, asked if it was a cheetah! She was so convinced in fact, despite everyone telling her no, she still went to a staff member with her concerns. Oh, some people.

From here we had cheetah feed. We walked through the farm wearing rubber gloves and hauled/threw huge pieces of meat over the fences for each cheetah. I was afraid that I was going to get meat juices and blood all over everyone and myself when I threw it but thankfully that didn’t happen. The cheetahs made such cute meows/ squeaks/ loud purrs as we came around with food.

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See? The servals hide so well!

Once cheetah feed was over with, all of the volunteers just hung out in the lapa while we waited for the morning meeting to start. It’s pretty cool actually, every morning they begin the meeting by reading an entry from a devotional book since the founder and owner is Christian. We actually got to meet her (Riana) at the meeting.

After morning meeting, Chanel took us, as well as a few other newbies, on a tour of the farm. We started on lion side where we got to interact with the servals (who are extremely good at hiding) and the very lovey caracals. Our next interaction was with the leopard cubs Cosmo and Cassius who were a bit frisky this morning and bit at my hoodie because it was a bit loose. The same old woman from before kept getting attacked by the cubs as she was wearing all loose fitting clothing but was convinced it was due to the color of the clothes.

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After interacting with the cubs we went into the wolf enclosure but unfortunately they weren’t ready to meet so many people so I wasn’t accepted into the pack yet but it’s my goal to be accepted as one of them. We briefly met the three lions and their tiger (who has hip dysplasia). The lions aren’t necessarily friendly towards people as they’re so large and moody but the woman who raised them was able to pet them and love them and they mooed and asked for attention which was really inspiring to watch. Obviously since we are strangers and they are moody, we are not allowed to interact with these animals.

 

On our way back to Cheetah side, Fushan the tiger started to show his teeth to us in a way that just looked like he was about to sneeze so it was pretty cute. Once we were back on cheetah side, we got to hang out with another set of baby leopards. Gemini, the little black leopard, was super playful and was jumping on everyone. She loved being pushed in her little tire swing and we just fell in love with her. So cute!IMG_5519

For the next few hours we were partnered up with volunteers who have been here longer to shadow them and I got the oh so difficult job of  babysitting Cosmo and Cassius. That was sarcasm obviously it was the best job ever and they were so sweet as they cuddled together and took a nap in the sun.

After babysitting we had lunch which was an amazing shepherds pie type dish with salad and beets that were really good. Once we all had full bellies, I put on some sun screen and got to do our group activity which was raking. I wasn’t really sure what we were trying to accomplish but it seemed we were just trying to take the dead loose leaves and grass to make it look a bit more tidy.

IMG_5512A bit later Joey, Grace (a fellow new volunteer who happens to also be from PA), and I went with one of the volunteers to do wire checking where she was checking the voltage, making sure all of the electric fences were working properly. For this we got to walk through the cheetah part of the farm and pet cheetahs through the fence. They were putting so loud and we even got licked a few times. From here we could see Emoya, which is a game reserve, and see some zebras and antelope in the far distance. At the end of our walk we met three of the female adult cheetahs: Neo, Juno, and Hunter, and decided that we’d like to have one of our sleepovers with them. We also went by the lion side area to check fences and went into the wolf enclosure again. This time both Nakita (the omega) and Shakira (the alfa) allowed us to pet them and sniffed our hands. I’m taking this as a good sign that they’re starting to trust me already!

Once we got back, Joey started working on their database stuff and I hung out with my new friend Grace and we joined a group to watch the lion side feeding. The servals get a lot more food than I thought they would! It’s interesting seeing them crunch through the chicken, bones and all. I also found out that we can hand feed their tiger Fushan through the fence so that he takes his medicine hidden in chicken pieces. I’m definitely looking forward to doing this later in the week!

After the feeding we waited to find someone to take us in to see the three cheetah cubs. We call them the 3/5 as there were a total of 5 cubs but two went to their new facility in Cape Town. They are currently in quarantine so we can’t interact with any other animals after being in contact with them. This means that we have to have our clothes washed and take a shower before touching any other animals.IMG_5557 They have e-coli right now but still very playful! Cheetahs are very delicate and get sick easily especially as cubs since they don’t have a fully developed immune system yet, but even the adults don’t have strong ones. The cubs allowed us to sit and pet them after they sniffed our hands and even our noses. Since they are so identical, the staff has dyed the tips of their tails to tell them apart and it’s so adorable! Yellow is Joyce, purple is Abygail, and white is Tinashe, well his was blue as he is the one brother but it faded. One of the sisters, Joyce, is a bit more touchy and skittish so she stayed by the fence for the most part. That is until we brought out the toy. We got a large string with a water bottle at the end and they went crazy for it! I got to run around the enclosure with it and have them chase me which was just amazing.IMG_5540

By now everyone was done with their work for the day and since it is Monday, we were taken to the shops to get groceries. Of course, since we are in a new country, we ended up buying lots of new candy and not so healthy food to try. Joey found a shot glass chess set and bought it to give to the volunteer house.

We enjoyed a relaxing evening in the volunteer house and made our chicken curry quick dinner in the oven before heading back to our unit and going to bed.

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