Our First Day at the Dell Cheetah Centre

We signed up for two weeks at the Dell Cheetah Centre in Parys, South Africa. The first few days were a whirlwind of information and activities. On the first day, we met the owner, Estelle Kemp, and the other volunteers at the Jo’burg Airport. There were six of us in all (three of us Americans, one Brit, one Aussie, and one Hollander). All of us seemed a little nervous and excited. Several of them had flown in that morning and were tired, as well.

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Parys is about an hour-and-a-half from Jo’burg so we piled into the van and headed off.

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This is where we got to stay while we were there. The others had dorm-style rooms in the main house but we were hooked up with our own little cabin-type house.

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It was awesome to look out the window and see two cheetahs.

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It was really nice inside, too. Ignore our mess.

After we plopped down our stuff, we had a quick tour of the center and a talk about cheetahs. People from the public are able to come, hear the talk, and interact with the cheetahs and other cats, by the way. So, if you want to pet a cheetah but aren’t too interested in feeding them and doing hard labor, that might be a good option.

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Pretty soon they put us to work. Every day, the animals are fed around 5pm and it would be our job to prepare the food and feed them. I’m authorized to go in the Cheetah Kitchen.

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Our volunteer coordinator and the two volunteers who had been at the center for a few weeks showed us what we would need to do.

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Isn’t this good advice for any house?

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Each cheetah or other cat gets a very specific amount of food each day. Generally, they have horse or donkey meat since it is similar to their diet in the wild (but cheaper than hunting impala every week). The minced meat is mixed (by us, by hand) with some protein powder.  The smaller cats (whom I’ll talk about later) get chicken or mice.

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When we were done mixing, we all picked a bowl and had to feed one of the cheetahs. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous. I picked up Tessa’s bowl. Little did I know (since no one told me) that Tessa is a grumpy girl who likes to run at the people putting down her food. I went in, put down the food, and all of a sudden a cheetah was running at me in a bluff (which, according to the San Diego Zoo is described as this: Teeth shown in wide-mouth snarl, body hunched, head lowered, eyes staring upward, abrupt small leaps and/or sudden charges, combined with a hard downward thump on the ground with both forepaws). I am proud to say that I didn’t run or scream or anything (I tend to freeze when scared anyway) and she didn’t come anywhere close to me. If that’s not excitement on your first day, I don’t know what is!

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Randy had another exciting cheetah to feed. He fed Trigger (pictured above), a young male cheetah who does not belong to the center. He was brought over to mate with the female cheetahs in hopes of producing new litters of cubs. He has not been worked with like the cheetahs at the center and he is very unpredictable. In order to enter his cage, our volunteer coordinator (who is also the main cheetah handler), accompanies us and brings a large wooden stick. The cheetahs are scared of the stick and will back off when they see it. That did not make me feel more comfortable but what can you do? Trigger did not run at anyone when Randy fed him.

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After feeding time, we wash up the bowls and close up shop. We’re then free to do what we want and make dinner. Although our food is provided, we had to prepare and cook it ourselves. It’s a good bonding activity with the other volunteers and a nice way to learn more about each other. It was a long, tiring first day, though, and I think we were all ready for bed and an early wake up call for day two.

Posted in Adventure, Animals, Charities, Cheetahs, Dell Cheetah Center, Dell Cheetah Centre, Offbeat Site, Tourist Activities | Leave a comment

More Backpacking at Any Age

I know this is a publicity gimmick but it is adorable! An and Ria (ages 72 and 78) have never flown in an airplane so this company arranged for them to fly to Barcelona. I love their very pure excitement (and nervousness) for something that I’ve started to find mundane. I think I’ll try to remember their reactions during our next flight so I can remember how amazing it is that we’re in a cylinder in the sky.

I think everything in this video goes back to the fact that you can face any fear (and start any new adventure) – no matter how old (or young) you are. Enjoy!

 

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Surviving a Cheetah Attack

I have read that cheetahs are not typically aggressive towards humans. They are usually just inquisitive, like the pictures from this safari-I-wish-I-had-been-on show. However, they are wild animals with sharp teeth. I don’t think there’s any guarantee that they won’t find us juicy and delicious.

In 2013, Adam Sandler was attacked by a cheetah while he was in their enclosure. I’m sure it was just a young, playful cheetah BUT they still have sharp teeth! The year before, a woman was attacked while petting a cheetah and her husband photographed the whole thing. I’m torn about that since I would want the pics for my picture of the day project but Randy should also try to kick that guy off of me.

I have found this very helpful wikihow article. If you’re going to volunteer with cheetahs, it’s important to know How to Survive a Cheetah Attack.

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Quote of the Day

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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Cheetahs in Popular Culture

Everyone loves cheetahs, right? Here are some of the pop culture references to cheetahs that I could find.

This is the first one I thought of. Harold and Kumar rode a cheetah in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Although that would make an awesome picture of the day, I don’t think I’ll be attempting it.

I always thought there was something a little strange about Chester Cheetah. He seems so self-absorbed and egotistical, like those hip musicians with their complicated shoes. I did like his April Fool’s perfume joke, though. Still, there’s just something about him…

Who can forget the Cheetah Girls and their popular movie, Cheetah-licious Christmas tour, and clothes? I still have fond memories of my musical Cheetah Girls toothbrush.

Cameron Diaz had a few cheetahs in the movie “The Counselor.” I haven’t seen it but it sounds sort of insane.

The movie Duma is based on a book and looks pretty cute. This trailer also features the folklore story of how cheetahs got their tear marks so I like that tie-in.

Cheetara is a boobilicious interpretation of cheetahs. Thundercats, ho!

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Cheeta was the name of Tarzan’s monkey.

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The Free State Cheetahs have a mascot with the creative name of Cheetah.

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A roller coaster called Cheetah Hunt got stuck last year and everyone had to be rescued. Don’t tell Randy – he hates roller coasters.

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Finally, Nick Cannon made the odd and unfortunate choice of dying his hair in a cheetah pattern.

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While I was looking things up, I found this excellent list of pop culture references to cheetahs. They missed Nick Cannon, though.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Animals, Charities, Cheetahs, Dell Cheetah Center, Dell Cheetah Centre, Fun Stuff, Movie, Music, TV | Leave a comment

The Dell Cheetah Centre – Posts from Past Volunteers

There have been a lot of volunteers at the Dell Cheetah Centre over the years and I love reading about their time volunteering. Here are some links if you’re interested in reading about what they went through:

Sophie volunteered for a month in 2014. Her blog is really cute since it seems that a bunch of school kids logged in to ask her questions (which she answered) while there. Awesome!

Amanda took some AMAZING pictures of the Dell Cheetah Center and her Kruger trip. I really wish I could take pictures like that!

Raewyn volunteered for two weeks in 2012.

Taylor volunteered for a month in 2012.

Becca was a volunteer coordinator for six months in 2011. It’s too bad she didn’t maintain her blog during that time but I’m sure she was busy with cheetah duties!

If there are other volunteers who have blogs out there, please let me know! I would love to read more about how other people fared at DCC and see pictures of their time!

3-21-14 Cheetah time

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Cheetah Folklore

I’m really interested in folklore and traditional stories about animals. It is surprisingly hard to find traditional stories about cheetahs on the internet, though. I found some involving rifles (I’m sure those were around a long, long time ago), cheetahs consulting with Greek gods (because they used to live in Greece?), and cheetahs named Tony (traditional Zulu name) but not a lot of legitimate stories. There were a few, though.

How the Cheetah Got His Spots

There is a very popular Rudyard Kipling Just So Story about how leopards got their spots but nothing much about cheetahs. I did find one about a lonely cheetah who tried to join in with lions but they said he was a dog (because of the nonretractable claws) and wild dogs but everyone laughed at him. He cried and cried, which caused the spots. I don’t like the text of this story because it lacks a good ending but it’s all I found.

How the Cheetah Got His Speed

Again, I only found one story about cheetah speed. It’s interesting that these stories portray cheetahs as very gentle creatures. Maybe it is because of their solitary and unaggressive nature. In any case, ignore the condescending nature of this website and check out this story.

Why the Cheetah Cries

I found this story about the cheetah’s distinct tear-shaped facial marks on several websites. It was virtually the same story, though, so it might be that everyone is just copy-and-pasting the same story over and over. Again, this story portrays cheetahs as gentle creatures. In it, the mother cheetahs’ cubs are stolen by a lazy hunter who wants them to hunt for him. The mother cheetah cries and cries which creates the tear marks on her face.

More?

There have to be more legends and myths about cheetahs out there. I know there’s a popular show called “Tinga Tinga Tales” and they have had episodes about cheetahs. I couldn’t find a link to a full episode, though. Please let me know if you come across any myths or legends. I would love to hear them!

 

Posted in Animals, Charities, Cheetahs, Dell Cheetah Center, Dell Cheetah Centre, Fun Stuff | 1 Comment

Cheetah Facts: Why Are Cheetahs Endangered?

Since we’re going to be volunteering with cheetahs, I thought I should find out a few things about them. The first thing I wanted to know was why cheetahs are endangered. It turns out, they’re not. I mean, not officially. There is an actual list where animals are classified according to how few animals there are. There are seven levels ranging from “extinct” to “least concern” and cheetahs are listed as vulnerable (which is right in the middle). There has been a definite decline in their population and there continue to be threats to their population but there are enough in the wild that they are not officially endangered. Yet.

Here are some facts about threats to cheetahs that I’ve gathered from around the ‘net:

  • Cheetahs are classified as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s (IUCN’s) Red List. I’m not sure if it has ever been officially classified as endangered. The IUCN lists the classification level since 1986 and it has always been listed as vulnerable.
  • Their population has decreased by about 30% in the last few decades.
  • The main threat to cheetahs is humans. We take their land and we hunt them. In particular, cheetahs threaten livestock and farmers -who depend on that livestock- hunt them to protect their livelihood.
  • Cheetahs are also threatened by their own biology. They have very low genetic variability which makes them susceptible to disease.
  • Cheetahs also have low sperm count so it’s difficult for them to reproduce.
  • Cheetahs are hard to breed in captivity due to their solitary nature, the choosiness of the females, low sperm count for males, and the difficulties with genetic diversity.

3-17-14 Nala

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The Dell Cheetah Centre in Parys, South Africa

We will be volunteering at the Dell Cheetah Centre in Parys, South Africa! Here’s a slick video to promote their organization:

And here’s one from a former volunteer:

 

Posted in Animals, Charities, Cheetahs, Dell Cheetah Center, Dell Cheetah Centre | 1 Comment

We’re Going to Volunteer with Cheetahs!

You know how I was saying that I was a little tired with things? I think a big part of that was the let down after volunteering in Cambodia. Even though that was a lot of work, I felt like there was a purpose to our trip. Afterwards, it felt a little hollow to just eat out and explore museums in Thailand. That was the disappointment when the shelter in Chiang Mai closed during the time we meant to volunteer – I really wanted a project.

Cut to Nepal when we were still struggling with some sort of aimlessness that was coloring my attitude. I searched through my travel notes and found some information about volunteer organizations in Africa. Long story short, I searched through projects on the African Impact site and found one that offered an opportunity to work at a cheetah center in South Africa. Not only that, it included a four-day safari to Kruger National Park! That was the main thing we wanted to do in South Africa so we were sold.

I’ll admit that it was a little expensive. However, when we worked out the cost of going on a safari and factored in the opportunities to get up close with cheetahs and participate in a volunteer activity, we felt like we were getting a bargain. We were lucky, also, that they could take us almost immediately!

I’m so excited to start!

Posted in Animals, Charities, Cheetahs, Dell Cheetah Center, Dell Cheetah Centre, Uncategorized | 3 Comments