Walking With Cheetahs 2011 travel blog

Our group finally made it to Research/Project tasks. On this day we learn things such as cheetah foot printing etc. The group goes to Malice's house (founder of the N/a 'an ku se) where she has two enclosures in her back yard housing 5 cheetahs - one being a 3 legged cheetah named Lucky who actually is the reason for N/a 'an ku se.

The group goes into the enclosure that has 3 cheetahs with only sticks for protection. They 'muster' the cheetahs to walk over a certain area they have prepared so as to get that cheetah's footprint. Specialists have learned that a cheetahs footprint is very much like humans finger tips - all different - and in this enclosure, they plan to release two of the cheetahs into the wild and this will be one of the ways to monitor it's movements by getting detailed recordings of their footprints.

On this occassion, the group was in the enclosure doing their thing when there was a commotion. Karen had noticed the baby duckling who resides at Malice's house as he is her son's pet decided to take part in what they were doing. He had ambled down to the enclosures setting off the two cheetahs in the neighbouring camp. When Karen looked up, she had seen one cheetah had climbed up the fence and was almost at the top of it. For some reason, they had turned the electricity off so there wasn't much stopping this big cat from jumping over. The co-ordinators who were present managed to get the cheetah back down and remove the duckling.

Not to be perturbed, the little rascal then made it's way down to the enclosure where the group was working and poked his head through the wire fencing!! Either the duckling thinks he's 10 times bigger than he realy is or he was on a suicide mission. Either way, it made for a nerve racking experience of cheetah foot printing when inside an enclosure with 3 untamed cheetahs.

Meanwhile, Debra jumped at the chance to go with one of the researches to check cameras and traps. The sanctuary is working with 7 neighbouring cattle farms to monitor game on their land to try and reduce the number of calves taken from the herds by leopards, lions and cheetahs.

We checked the first camera that was positioned near a dry water bed. Across from the camera, but unfortunately, out of its range, was a small water whole where very (and I mean very) fresh leopard prints were found. Flo (the researcher) was aware of 2 female leopards in the area, one with a cub. These prints belonged to the one with out and would have been only a few hours old, meaning this leopard was still in the area, possibly watching us. The other set of prints at the water hole were of an ant eater so no interest there. We then took off to the next farm, checked a few traps that had been set up at trees they know cheetahs come to mark but unfortunately, nothing had been caught on this day.

We then had to set up a new camera at a sight that has the researchers baffled. There is a rock cave on one farm where it has been reported leopards, hyenas and honey badgers have all been visiting at some point. All these animals are enemies of each other so they can't understand how it's come to be that they are all visiting or residing at this location. Flo warned that this can be dangerous, more so if there are honey badgers around. Apparently they are the nastiest buggers there are (so Flo says!). If they latch on, they have a locked jaw that can not be opened. No other animal will hunt them, not even lion which is 10 times bigger as they know they can not win against a nasty, angry little blighter like a honey badger so technically these vicious creatures have no enemy! and yet they look just like a little skunk?!?!?!

This arvo we would be treated to something different. Dr Rudie (no, not little baby baboon Rudie) Malice's hubby had returned from watching world rugby in NZ. He is a Doctor but also does the darting of animals for the farm. He was to give us a presentation of the different tranquilizers they use in darts to capture various wild life. After that we were to take turns fireing a dart gun!

So we all file outside after the presentation. They had set up a target at the end of the garden - a picture of a cheetah on piece of carpet. We were given the strict steps of what one must do - load the dart, turn the gas on (it is powered by a gas cylinder, no gas and your dart ain't goin' nowhere), safety off, aim then pull the trigger!

Simple?? it would be if it weren't for the wind building up for the 3 day of storms we've been having. The gun is rather light so it was hard to keep it on target. Just when you think you have the target in your sights the wind carries the dart and you end up getting the inside leg of the cheetah... not the best spot to bring that animal down. The actual target was a specific dot on its bum but most of the people got the inside leg. Only about 3 people managed to get it into its rump... for the rest of us, the wind was too strong... well that's our excuse. At least we all managed to get the pink fluffy dart to hit the carpet and it didnt' go sailing past into a neighbouring enclosure like it had in the past apparently.

It was fun and I wish would could have had another go but the rain decided to come and this time it came in bucket loads. Whole afternoon was called off, shop was opened early but most of us tried to escape the rain and find some shelter. Again, us poor tent people, it was just too far to run to our tents so we only made it to the kitchen.... but dinner was smelling was gooooood!!

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