My two weeks (July 16 – July 31, 2017) at the Cheetah Conservation Fund were unforgettable. When Courtney and I arrived, we were introduced to all the staff and interns and we were surprised by just how friendly and welcoming everyone was. I already had a warm feeling that we were going to learn a lot from them and have a great time as vet interns. Over the next few days, we were given a tour and tasked with general duties. This gave us the opportunity to see just what CCF was about and to spend time getting to know all our fellow interns. It was interesting to hear about everyone’s diverse background and it was one of the things I loved about CCF – it was truly an international effort to save the cheetah!
As the week progressed, we were able to spend more time with the onsite veterinarians. The vets at CCF were amazing, they were very good at their jobs and extremely willing to teach us about diseases and procedures that went on. It wasn’t always as simple as learning from them – they also assigned us to research into a few cases of our own! What I loved about CCF was being able to get our fix of animal work with dogs, goats, and cheetahs. As veterinarian students, it’s important for us to understand animal health from a larger picture. Being able to help with husbandry, feeding, and animal checks gave us insight into how these animals lived and how we could improve their health. It’s also a plus to be chased by puppies and pranced on by goats.
With the vets, we were able to help with medication, treatment of injuries, blood draws, and – the highlight of our time at CCF – the dental procedures on 3 of the resident cheetahs. CCF is lucky enough to have a human dentist come in to perform root canals on cheetahs. Assisting with the procedure was a once in a lifetime experience and we learned so much from it.
I also was surprised by how much I enjoyed the non-veterinary related activities that we participated in. CCF has many well-established departments, including the ecology department, where we helped out with game counts and the annual waterhole count. We also went out with the scat detection dog team, and it was amazing to learn about how working dogs can help with conservation. It was also exciting to see how many visitors and experts around the globe came to see the work at CCF. I had great conversations with many of them, and learned from the presentations that they gave to staff and interns.
Our two weeks at CCF definitely felt too short. We were immersed with most, if not all, activities that happened there and I learned an incredible amount. After hours consisted of late night chats, campfire sing-alongs, and movie nights that left us with friends across the world. I know that a lot still has to be done to save endangered species from their plight, but it inspired me to watch the staff work together for this common cause. For this, I am excited to see the future contributions CCF has to saving the cheetah.
Tracy To, B. Sc.
Ontario Veterinary College, Class of 2019