I work as a carnivore keeper in GaiaZOO, the Netherlands. Last year I volunteered for CCF for a total of five weeks; first three weeks in Namibia and then two weeks in Somaliland. Back then I brought a lot of medication and some enrichment items with me for the cheetahs in Somaliland. In March, I was asked if I could come help again this year for some weeks. After making sure COVID restrictions allow for travel, I said “yes” and this time brought my partner, Lex, who also works as an animal keeper.
This time we wanted to bring as much as possible for the cubs as well, so we started a GoFundMe page asking friends and family to please donate to help finance all the items. We got a list of requests from the keepers and vets in Somaliland, and had some ideas of our own for items we wanted to bring. We were allowed to bring two bags of each 23 kg per person, and we ended up buying an extra bag of 32 kg to be able to bring all the items. The vet team had asked for different medications and we were lucky enough that our workplace, GaiaZOO, offered to donate most of the medicine via our GaiaNatureFund. Our zoo’s veterinarian also donated some medicines herself. Other items like latex gloves were donated by a local Dutch cleaning company, Meka Uniclean, and firehose was donated by our local fire department.
All items were purchased with the money we raised via GoFundMe, a total of 800 euro, which was way more than we had hoped to raise! With this money we were able to buy things like Jolly Eggs, boomer balls, remote control cars to chase, rope to make monkey fists, catnip spray, different artificial animal scents, bungee elastic, grass seeds, brushes, knife sharpeners etc.
From the 5 bags that we brought, half a bag was for ourselves and the rest was all for the cheetahs!
Firehose weighs a lot, so we said we would bring as much as possible after the other items had been packed. We ended up being able to bring 3 rolls, and with this we could make 1 big and 1 small hammock, 1 tire with firehose and with the leftovers we made some cubes.
There is nothing better than seeing the animals enjoying their new toys and being curious about them. The hammocks were a hit and gives them a new resting place but also challenges their balance. The jolly eggs and boomer balls are new things to chase and attack and the scents offer a sensory enrichment. All the new items gives the keepers more possibilities of keeping the cheetahs physically and mentally stimulated, although I do think the remote control cars were maybe more enrichment to the keepers than the cheetahs 😉