165 days. That is how long I have been an intern here at CCF. I can’t even begin to explain how strange it feels to be sitting here at my desk writing my internship story. It’s very difficult to decide what it is that I want to tell you about my experience at CCF. There are so many amazing things about this place. It is very surreal. Experiencing CCF has been a aspiration for me for several years and I still can’t believe that I have finally accomplished that goal.
There is always so much happening. The hours are long and the days are hard. Some of the work isn’t so glorious, but every job has its moments. Work is work and it has to be done. Everything that goes on is worth it, and I wouldn’t take any of it back.
I have raked goat and cheetah pens, shoveled dog and horse feces, washed bowls, swept, picked up cheetah scat, sat for 12 hours in a hide, and cut up raw meat. I have also had the opportunity to feed the dogs, tend to the horses, see the wildlife up close while sitting in those hides, helped with the cheetah care, and train one of the working dogs.
Let me introduce you to Isha. She is a scat detection dog. She was given to me as one of my projects here at CCF. It has been my job to train her to be a scat-matching dog. I would give Isha a scat sample to smell from a known cheetah, and the goal is for her to be able to match other scat samples to the same individual. This was something new for both of us. We had a lot of trial and errors but after some time, we managed to find something that worked. We became a team. She still has some training to do, but it’s been exciting to see her progress.
I have enjoyed my work with the horses and the cheetahs the most. I’ve always had a passion for horses and I was ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to work with them. At first, I was nervous and a bit shy around them. As I got to know them, and they got to know me, I felt more comfortable with them and more confident in myself. Now I am down there every morning and evening to see them. I will miss everyone here, but those are seven animals that I will definitely miss.
My favorite part of being an intern with CCF was when I went out with the husbandry team. We would feed all the cheetahs that call CCF home. The first time I watched a cheetah run up close was on husbandry. I was standing in the back of the truck while Bella, Padme, Kiana, and Kayla ran behind us. It literally took my breath away. There is nothing quite like watching a cheetah in their element.
The highlight of my time here was helping with the cheetah releases. Emma, Minja, and Jacomina were released shortly after my arrival. Jacomina had to be recaptured due to an injury. However, after she healed we released her back into the wild where she belonged. I had the privilege to be the one on top of the box to catch her for transport. I felt like I was on top of the world. Skiet and Keikay were released later on in my stay here at CCF. Each cheetah was fitted with a radio collar and then tracked using telemetry to monitor their success. I have been able to go out with the husbandry team and help track them. We would trek through thick bush, getting scrapes from thorns, trying not to step into a hole, and keeping an eye out for any wildlife nearby, all while holding the antenna listening for the faint blip of the cheetah’s signal. This was when I discovered my passion. The best thing in the world is seeing the success of a previously captive animal being itself back in the wild.
I will miss this place. I have met so many amazing people, made lots of memories, and learned so much about the animals. It’s hard to pick out the best moments, some of them being: watching the sun set and the stars come out; walking to the horse barn with Phoenix walking along his fence with me; and listening to the cheetahs purr. This has been one of the best experiences in my life.
My adventure here in Namibia has run its course, now it is time for me to go back to Maine to finish my education at Unity College.