Monthly Archives: February 2013

New Baby Cheetah

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This is Rainbow. She came to us at CCF a couple of weeks ago. She is about 3 months old and is the only young cheetah cub here at this time. I had the pleasure of going along to feed her and got to take these photos of her beautiful face. CCF got a call from a Namibian man who found 5 cheetah cubs – siblings – in the wild. He was driving at night and unfortunately hit one cub with his car. It died right away. Three of the cubs ran off into the wild. One cub lay in the road unhurt and let him capture her – this is Rainbow. All 5 cubs had clearly been without a mother for a while. They were scrawny, malnourished, and had big eyes and feet disproportionate to the rest of the body.

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Cheetah cubs usually stay with their mother until 18-22 months old. Rainbow is 3 months. This means she won’t be eligible for release back to the wild because she’ll be too long without a mom to teach her how to hunt and survive on her own. After 18-22 months, female cheetahs leave their mother and siblings to live on their own. Male cheetahs leave their mother but stick with their brothers to form a coalition.IMG_1856

The man who found Rainbow kept her for a week in a small cage without enough space to stand up. Because of this, she developed sores on her back legs and her bum, which are healing now.  When I first met her, I was shocked at the huge size of her feet and front legs compared to her tiny body. We don’t know what the man fed her, but the loss of her mother and the inability to hunt properly led to extreme malnutrition. She is getting plenty to eat now and is looking better every day.

IMG_1859Rainbow was really grumpy when she first arrived. She continues to growl and hiss quite a bit when people come around. Since she is most likely to live out her life here at CCF in a big enclosure with plenty of food, the team here is working on showing her that people aren’t all bad and that she can trust us to take good care of her.

Rainbow is named for the big bright double rainbow that hung in the sky on the day she arrived.

Rainbow is named for the big bright double rainbow that hung in the sky on the day she arrived.

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Because Rainbow’s tummy was so small when she first arrived, she had to work up to a decent size meal slowly. Now she’s eating about 2 pounds plus 1 rib of donkey meat each day.

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This is me releasing cheetah Josie to a large enclosure - part of the process of bonding him with a group of three other male cheetahs.

This is me releasing cheetah Josie to a large enclosure – part of the process of bonding him with a group of three other male cheetahs.

– Jenna

In the Bush

A few days ago, Jenna and I climbed up Leopard Hill, a small rocky rise to the southeast of our house.  From the top, there is a good view of how CCF’s Namibia Centre is surrounded by an almost endless sea of trees and shrubs, which is called “bush” over here.  Our house is circled in the photo.

Our home in the bush

Our home in the bush

It didn’t always look like this. One of the biggest environmental challenges in Namibia is “bush encroachment,” where trees and shrubs take over grasslands, diminishing the quality of forage for livestock and the quality of habitat for many kinds of wildlife. When we think of Africa, we usually think of the grassy savannahs, where giant herds of ungulates thrive, along with predators like lions, leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs. Namibia, along with many other parts of Africa, is losing its savannahs to bush encroachment.

It is thought that bush encroachment is caused by the complex interactions of overgrazing and fire suppression with natural cycles of drought and rain. Basically, having too many livestock in an area can kill off the grass species and favor the growth of trees and shrubs, especially when the grasses are first stressed by drought and then a few good rain years let the woody plants get established.  It is a very hard process to reverse.

CCF recognizes that too much bush can reduce the number of game animals available for cheetahs to hunt. It also makes it harder for the cheetah to use its speed advantage, since it’s harder to run through thick bush. Also, farmers who have lost prime grazing land to bush will be more economically stressed and more likely to kill a cheetah if they see it. CCF’s Bushblock program is restoring savannah habitat by clearing bush and turning it into compressed wood briquettes that are sold as “cheetah-friendly” firewood.

The beginning of the nature trail

The beginning of the nature trail

Speaking of savannahs and bush, I am working on a project here to improve an existing nature trail at the Centre. We are clearing a section of bush along the trail so that visitors can get a feel for what the original grassland used to look like.  We are also adding a bird-viewing blind, a salt lick to attract animals, a carcass area (where we will place animal skeletons), and other fun and interactive elements.  Oh, and we are also changing the name of the trail 🙂

-Chris

Working on the trail, with Titus Shaanika

Working on the trail, with Titus Shaanika

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Jenna with kudu antlers

Breaking Ground

The Front Porch Nursery

The Front Porch Nursery

The past week has been about breaking ground in a variety of ways – in the soil, in the creamery, and in the clinic. Laurie Marker (CCF’s Director) and I made the 3 1/2 hour drive to Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek, and visited a fantastic nursery. We picked up a loads of plants, mostly edible perennials including figs, pomegranates, pineapple guavas, a cumquat, rhubarb, and lavender. Then we gathered some cuttings of Frangipani, also known as Plumeria to those of us who know and love Hawaii, and headed for home.

I started some vegetable seeds in pots, as well. All these seeds and plants have come together on our porch to make the beginnings of what we now call ‘The Front Porch Nursery.’ Lucky for me, I’ve had lots of help, mostly from the neighborhood kids, who might just become my loyal nursery and garden crew. As you know, we’ve been waiting for a broken tractor to be fixed for what seems like an eternity. So, while waiting we are moving forward with our edible/ornamental landscaping plans in the front yard of our house. Yesterday we planted 6 new frangipani trees – hooray for breaking ground!

Nursery crew

Nursery crew

More nursery crew

More nursery crew

Our front yard (AKA blank canvas)

Our front yard (AKA blank canvas)

CCF has a model farm with dairy goats and makes fantastic cheeses – feta and chèvre. Three years in the making, we just had a grand opening for the brand new Dancing Goat Creamery here on site. I am honored to be here for this event and loved seeing the enthusiasm of all the folks involved. The new creamery is beautiful, and cheese-making in this new facility began this week. As of now, CCF uses these goat cheeses in the Cheetah Cafe here and sells to restaurants and supermarkets around Namibia. We are working on growing more sales outlets.

Creamery Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting - General Manager Bruce, Director Laurie, Kitchen Manager Hanlie, Kraal Supervisor Tyapa

Creamery Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting – General Manager Bruce, Director Laurie, Kitchen Manager Hanlie, Kraal Supervisor Tyapa

Last week Chris and I had the incredible privilege of participating for our first time in cheetah annual exams in the clinic. We were present for the exams of two male cheetahs – Fossie and Mendel. We monitored body temperature, checked heart rates, took blood samples, pulled off ticks and burrs, looked at teeth, helped with semen collection, looked at sperm counts, and took lots of photos. As we got to touch the cheetahs’ bodies, we learned that the fur of their black spots is much softer than the yellow fur covering the rest of the body:)

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-Jenna

Puppies for Cheetahs!

Two-day-old puppy who will grow up to save cheetahs.

Two-day-old puppy who will grow up to save cheetahs.

CCF has a very innovative Livestock Guarding Dog Program which helps protect cheetahs and fosters good relationships between CCF and farmers. Here at the center, we are breeding Anatolian Shepherds. These cute little puppies grow up to be very big and have a big bark. When the dog is placed with a herd of small livestock (goats and sheep), it keeps predators like cheetahs and leopards away. This way the farmer can be confident that his livestock is safe and therefore is not inclined to shoot a cheetah.

Lucky me, 7 new puppies were born on my birthday this past week to new mom, Heidi. She’ll take good care of her puppies until they are in their 9th week, and then the puppies will be place with farms in cheetah habitat. There is a 2-year waiting list to receive an Anatolian Shepherd from CCF!

New mom Heidi nursing her baby Anatolian Shepherds.

New mom Heidi nursing her baby Anatolian Shepherds.

CCF's herd with guard dog Aleya.

CCF’s herd with guard dog Aleya.

CCF's herder Armas with guard dog Aleya.

CCF’s herder Armas with guard dog Aleya.

Mini-farm site fully covered in manure.

Mini-farm site fully covered in manure.

The mini-farm is coming along, slowly but surely. We ran out of aged horse manure about 1/3 of the way through and our use of onsite available resources has created a fun patchwork experiment. See the patchwork in the photo? We’ll be growing in horse manure, kraal manure (sheep and goat), Bushblok wood dust (more on that later), and extremely aged kraal manure. We’ll see how it goes. Next step: waiting for the tractor in the shop to be fixed so we can open up the ground.

Sunset on my birthday.

Sunset on my birthday.

Cheetah Amani having eye surgery to treat an ulcer on her cornea.

Cheetah Amani having eye surgery to treat an ulcer on her cornea.

Friendly goat in CCF's herd.

Friendly goat in CCF’s herd.

-Jenna

Starting a Mini-Farm

Bringing aged horse manure to the new mini-farm site.Bringing aged horse manure to the new mini-farm site.

When people in Namibia talk about farms, they mean livestock – goats, sheep, cows, etc. (What we call ranching in California.) We’re talking vegetables now, which is uncommon around here. CCF is working towards sustainability every day. Chris and I are planning to grow vegetables and fruits here at the center to be used at the Cheetah Cafe (which feeds visitors) and at the Hot Spot (which feeds staff and volunteers). I’m not sure yet whether to call it a big garden or a small farm. We are starting at garden scale with the hope that there will be enough of both success and water (have I mentioned that this is extreme desert?) to make it a small vegetable farm. So far we have chosen a site, made a garden design, and moved a huge pile of aged manure to cover half the ground we’ll be cultivating. The garden site is right next to the home of a group of four very friendly cheetahs who have been keeping me company while I’m trenching for a water line and spreading manure.

While working on our own projects, Chris and I still participate in animal husbandry – feeding cheetahs, feeding livestock guard dogs, and cleaning goat pens. Some of our most incredible wildlife sightings happen when we make the rounds to feed all of CCF’s 46 cheetahs. This takes several hours as they all have very large enclosures; there is a lot of ground to cover.

We’ve also been enjoying ‘sundowners.’ We head out on a drive with our CCF community to the big field to watch the sunset, see loads of wildlife, and have drinks. I’m thinking sundowners is a good tradition to bring back to the U.S.  Lots of the photos below come from these good times.

– Jenna

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Some of the captive cheetahs are exercised by chasing a rag in a large enclosure. This cheetah is about to catch the rag.

Some of the captive cheetahs are exercised by chasing a rag in a large enclosure. This cheetah is about to catch the rag.

Me and Chris with my hero Laurie Marker, CCF's director.

Me and Chris with my hero Laurie Marker, CCF’s director.

Standing on a termite mound at sundowners.

Standing on a termite mound at sundowners.

Giraffe with a heart-shaped nose.

Giraffe with a heart-shaped nose.

Red hartebeest at sunset in front of the Waterberg Plateau

Red hartebeest at sunset in front of the Waterberg Plateau

Yellow-billed Hornbill at sunrise

Yellow-billed Hornbill at sunrise

Moonrise over the Waterberg Plateau

Moonrise over the Waterberg Plateau

We moved into a new house yesterday. We are thinking about changing the landscaping to be an edible food forest :)

We moved into a new house yesterday. We are thinking of changing the landscaping to be an edible food forest 🙂