We clambered into the truck, gunned the engine and headed up the dusty red road, followed by two hungry racing cheetahs. Bloody strips of donkey meat were dangled out the back, and after a good run, tossed to the ground for the cats to retrieve. It’s both exercise time, and feeding time, at Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia.
After hearing Dr. Laurie Marker’s impassioned talks about the plight of the cheetah, I was determined to see for myself. While all big cats are in trouble, cheetahs face multiple perils; shot by farmers as threats to livestock, kidnapped for the Middle Eastern pet trade, hemmed by shrinking habitat, and more.
At the edge of Namibia’s Waterburg plateau, CCF is many things; education center, sanctuary for non-releasable cats, working farm with happy goats and lush greenhouses, breeding center for livestock guard dogs, and a fun and enriching place to stay.
During my sojourn I meandered the grounds freely, noted the meshing of locals and visiting veterinary interns. While Laurie and senior ecologist Matti Nghikembua were talking compost, visitors watched a blur of black dots on gold; a cheetah being run for exercise.
I moved on to the canine compound, only to be enthusiastically attacked by a troop of puppies. Their future would be with farmers, to guard their livestock, and allay any fatal cheetah encounter. But for now, their main focus was my shoelaces.