Africa Trip – Day 2 Cheetah Experience

June 7, 2017

Another cold morning and my first chore today was to clean platforms with Joey. This is not a chore you want to do when it’s cold! We grabbed our buckets of water and scrub brushes and went to work on the multiple raised platforms that the free-roam cheetahs use. I went to the largest one built almost like a treehouse and covered in tile. Unfortunately though, since I’m so short, I had to fully climb into it to reach and clean the middle!

I had the duty of cleaning up the meerkats’ enclosure again but this time with Etienne, a volunteer from France! I practiced a little French and showed him what I learned yesterday. He’s been here before but two years ago so it was a bit of a refresher for him. Also trying to teach him was helping me to further memorize all of the steps for cleaning their enclosure. It was almost like a cleaning quiz for me as I was teaching him.

Once chores were done it was time for cheetah feed again!  This time thankfully we didn’t have to launch the huge chunks of meat over the fence. When we arrived to the meat room, all of the meat was already divided into dishes along with supplements and vitamins. I grabbed a few dishes (everyone grabbed about 2 dishes each) and we headed out. For the majority of the cheetahs, a chicken (skinned and gutted) was tossed over the fence as a distraction while someone slid their food bowl through a small door in the fence. IMG_5560Our final enclosure was for the three adult girls: Neo, Hunter, and Juno. Juno was stunning. I remembered her from yesterday with her uniquely dark coat but today I happened to have her food dish! Since these three are better with people, we got to walk into the enclosure to feed them! The three of us volunteers held our bowls up high as we walked with each cheetah to their feeding spots before setting them down. We stayed in the enclosure until they were finished. Mostly to make sure they wouldn’t try to steal each other’s food but it was interesting seeing them crunch through the meat and bones so easily. I even reached out to stroke Juno once or twice as she was finishing up.

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I’m bundled in the white and grey jacket, about to enter the enclosure.

Since I was on meat room duty, a volunteer from Australia named Janet and I wen to wash the dishes and clean up from the morning feed. It was nice and kind of relaxing. The water was nice and warm and we chatted and got to know each other a little more while we worked.

As per the daily schedule, we had the morning meeting and got to meet the infamous Poofy. We had heard a lot about her yesterday (especially as we interacted with the Lion Side animals) and she was just as cute and unique as everyone described!

After meeting we sat with Poofy and did some quick boring paperwork before beginning induction. The beginning was an in depth look at all of the rules and such for interacting with the various animals on the farm. After we went through the handbook piece by piece, we took another walk around the farm to be introduced to the animals again by Poofy!

Our first interaction today was with Jasper the special serval. He is basically Poofy’s baby. He had fluid in his brain as a baby so he’s a bit messed up now but still adorable and lovey. He lives with her and has anxiety so she basically has to make him come outside and enjoy the fresh air because if it were up to him, he’d stay cuddled safe in her bed all day. It was amazing seeing their bond. Because of his neurological issues, his large serval ears stick up in the middle like a bunny rabbit. He’s just cute all around.

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Me with Vega the serval. (He’s super tall!)

Anyways, we had a quick visit with Cosmo and Cassius again since Jasper’s enclosure is right next door. They were frisky so we didn’t stay for too long before heading over to Lion Side and having a brief visit with the caracals and servals. It was really cute hearing Poofy purr to Vega and Lyra (the servals) and them respond and head bump her. Vega even enjoyed trying to suck on her fingers like a kitten. Too cute!

We got to go in with wolves again and we had three less volunteers with us this time so they seemed to be a bit more welcoming. Nikita, the omega, licked my hand after smelling me which was awesome! Shakira, the alpha, didn’t yet but she stood in front of me and let me pet her which is a good sign.

After our lion-side induction, lunch was served in the volunteer room and was super delicious and filling again. This time we were treated to rice, a meat stew type dish, and veggies.

While we waited for group activity, we got to hang out with the cubs Phoenix, Gemini and Hazel again. They were a bit more calm this time but Phoenix and Gemini, the two leopards, are just about always playing together.

Group activity was announced to be in the meat room where Joey, Grace, Etienne, and I were faced with a few barrels of dead chickens with the task to skin and gut them. I am so thankful that I am not squeamish or else this would have been horrible. The Pocono Wildlife Rehab & Education center that I volunteered at last summer introduced me to gutting mice so I wasn’t a complete novice but obviously chickens are a whole lot bigger than mice. I won’t go too much into detail as it was quite gross but I’ll just say that I now have broken a dead chicken’s bones and I’ll totally be prepared when the apocalypse hits.

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Just to show how large the pieces of meat are during “big feed”

This afternoon I got to help with the lion-side “big” feed. Basically every other day is when the leopards, tiger, and lions get the huge pieces of meat. Today was one of those days!  I started by feeding the wildcats which look like regular domestic cats until raw chicken comes around. They go absolutely crazy! I set the dish down to let each of them grab a piece before dispersing the rest around their enclosure for them to find later. Then I got to handle the big pieces of cow and hid a piece in a tree in Fiona’s enclosure for her to find. Just as I hoped, the time came to give Fushan his chicken stuffed with meds and I volunteered as quickly as I possibly could! He was so gentle taking the pieces through the fence. It was absolutely amazing.

DSC_0945Now came the time for lion feed. The lions were put into their feeding camps while we entered their enclosures to poop scoop. It was a bit scary thinking that if they somehow escaped back into the enclosure, we’d be easy targets. *Gulp* Once we were done hunting for poop in Max’s huge enclosure, we brought in large pieces of cow for them. For Napoleon and Acynonix, we placed their food into large tires for them to wiggle it out of. I had the job of carrying in half a cow head! It was split right down the middle, you could see the brain and everything!

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Napoleon happy with his meal

I had the chore of cleaning the meat room again and Janet and I were all set to go when we started having water trouble. First, the tap wouldn’t come on because they were in the process of installing a new tap in another location on the farm. However, once the water was turned back on it wouldn’t stop! And it was only the hot water that was going at full blast! It took awhile, and quite a few times of turning the source of the water on and off before we were finally able to do dishes, wipe counters, and mop the floor.

Tonight we went back to the volunteer unite to shower and change before we all went out to eat at the bar at Emoya Game Preserve called the Shebeen. We took the Cheetah Experience pickup truck through the Emoya park, in the dark, to get there. We saw a bunch of antelope and a giraffe grazing at a tree right next to us! Obviously since it was dark we didn’t take any pictures but it was a surreal experience for sure. The bar was loud and obnoxious and empty of people. They had the music blaring as if it were an NYC night club. It was so loud in fact that after we ordered our food and grabbed a bottle of wine, we headed out to the patio with Etienne and Grace so that we could actually hear one another. While we were out here, we were introduced to Colette. We hadn’t seen her yet as she’d been quite sick but she sat with us and chatted for the rest of the night. She was super funny and talkative and had the same sense of humor as Joey despite her thick accent from Belgium. The pizza came and we all shared as they were a bit larger than we anticipated. It was a good night of getting to know fellow volunteers and staff members before we headed back across the game park in the cold to get a good night’s rest.

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