Four years ago I decided to travel half way around the world to start work in a country I’ve never been to before, all in the name of conservation. Fast forward and I’m now celebrating my fourth anniversary of living in Namibia and working as the Personal Assistant for the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s (CCF) Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Laurie Marker.
Each year on this day, I take a moment to reflect on the achievements I have made throughout the year, both personally and professionally. And despite being in Australia for half of the year, I have still been able to achieve and experience so much this year.
While back at home in Australia (due to COVID-19 delaying my permit to stay in Namibia and then having to apply to the Australian government to allow me to leave again), I took the opportunity to work alongside some of CCF’s partners in South Australia. I was approached by one of the CCF Australia Directors asking if I could give an update about CCF’s work to the carnivore keepers at Monarto Safari Park, one of CCFA’s longest running donors. All the keepers were excited to hear what had been happening at CCF since my last presentation in 2018. However, walking around the safari park while wearing my CCF uniform, I was approached by a couple of the volunteer guides who also wanted me to give a presentation to all of the guides. So a couple of weeks later, I returned to Monarto Safari Park and gave my second presentation. In the meantime, I had also attended Roseworthy campus at Adelaide University and had given a lecture to the biology, conservation, animal behaviour and vet students. In total about 80 students attended my lecture to learn more about cheetah conservation and CCF, with some students enquiring about the possibility of student internships.
However, some of my biggest milestones this year have come when I was back in Namibia. I have been able to collaborate on two scientific papers which were published during 2021, along with an article published in the Namibian magazine, Roan NEWS. I also got the opportunity to travel to Windhoek with Annetjie Siyaya, our CCF Education Manager, to present our findings from the Roan article at the Roan NEWS magazine launch.
I have been able to also continue with the things that I enjoy, like morning horseback rides with Dr. Laurie or going on night drives and safari drives or helping with the monthly game counts. I even got to help with the annual waterhole this last year, which included my second ever sighting of a brown hyena! I’ve been able to see African wild dog and hippo in the wild for the first time, including seeing a tiny baby hippo calf! Wiggle, wiggle. I even got to hear and see how the African wild dogs I helped raise in 2018, are doing with their rewilding progress. And these sightings were made even more special by the fact that I got to see them on my birthday. It was also pretty special that Dr. Laurie brought me along with the team that worked up the five male cheetahs at Erindi recently as a part of my birthday present.
My cheetah and horse knowledge has also grown a lot since being back in Namibia during this last year. Unfortunately, last year we had to say goodbye to one of our very, very old horses, Tango, after old age finally caught up to him at the ripe old age of 40 or so. Before coming to CCF, Tango was part of the anti-poaching unit based in Etosha National Park and at the Waterberg National Park, so he had special care for his work done for Namibia. But now we are kept busy with the two new horses at the stables, which came from one of our other farms. They are teaching me a lot about working with new and young horses, not to mention, learning about locking stifles. One of the horses is young and pregnant and has issues with locking stifles. We are hoping she will outgrow this issue.
So after four years with CCF, I’m still learning and getting the opportunity to experience new things. I’ve been able to experience some incredible sunsets that occur during the rainy season. Plus I also experienced my first Christmas and New Year celebrations at CCF. Thank you to everyone who has been part of making this last year just as exciting and memorable as my previous years. I’m excited for what this year will bring and what new opportunities lay ahead.