Vulnerable youth help a vulnerable species

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Spring is in the air at CCF Namibia, and with spring comes spring-cleaning – LOTS of it! As the end of the year and the start of the rainy season approaches, there’s a lot of work to be done. So CCF staff members were delighted when 14 volunteers offered to spend a weekend doing various cleaning and maintenance tasks around the CCF Namibia Centre.

The group we hosted came from a Namibian institution for troubled European youth. Over the course of a six- to 12-month period, they follow a set program with a focus on positive coping mechanisms as well as confidence building in a structured environment that is both therapeutic and skills oriented.

Based at Lightfoot Camp, a campsite facility with dormitory style huts about a kilometre from the CCF Centre, our volunteers provided much-needed help for our different departments. They worked alongside our husbandry team raking and cleaning cheetah enclosures, as well as with our kraal staff to help mend fences and clean water troughs. They even assisted with bottle-feeding our kid goats.

The farm where the group comes from has a licence to hold a few captive cheetahs that were rescued from local farmers. The select group that cares for their cheetahs, joined our husbandry team during the daily feeding routine of CCF’s resident cheetahs. CCF staff had the opportunity to share our knowledge with them: the level of care that is provided to each of our cheetahs, our training programs, as well as about our medical routines, especially those pertaining to our older captive cats.

But it wasn’t all work, work, work; there was plenty of time for fun actives, too. Gemsbok, kudu, kori bustards, and even a brown hyaena made an appearance during an evening game drive through our Little Serengeti. Stormy skies and the Waterberg Plateau provided a picturesque backdrop for the drive, which was followed by a wonderful night around the campfire sharing stories about the day’s different activities and experiences.

Kudu

Kudu

On its last morning, the group experienced CCF’s famous Cheetah Run as our ambassadors raced past – chasing after a lure while demonstrating the incredible prowess and athletic ability that makes the cheetah the fastest land mammal in the world. They also sat in on a discussion with CCF Founder Dr. Laurie Marker, Education Manager Nadja LeRoux, and myself. The topic was around the various challenges cheetah have in their race for survival.

Cheetah Run

Cheetah Run

Because many of these students come from troubled backgrounds, it was moving to see them have the chance to engage with the animals, our staff, and each other. Moments shared were touching and memorable. One such activity was where CCF staff placed each of the students in a pen with one of CCF’s livestock guarding dogs and their goats. They spent 30 minutes interacting with them, petting them and each had a story about the various personalities they saw in these animals. CCF has always recognized that interacting with animals is key to creating like-minded communities that are conservation oriented and environmentally aware.

Our volunteers piled back into their buses and left CCF with a feeling of accomplishment and time well spent. Likewise, CCF staff felt the same.

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