If you had told me when I first started college that I would spend a summer abroad in Namibia, Africa I would have never believed it. During my sophomore year of college, one of classmates visited Namibia for a month over winter break. This is when I first started dreaming of making the journey myself. After seeing her photos and hearing her stories I was sure I had to visit this beautiful country. My junior year is when I first heard about CCF from one of my professors. I quickly contacted them to learn about all the opportunities available. I then began working countless hours putting together a research proposal. I spent weeks checking and rechecking it and having my professor edit it so it would be just right. I eventually submitted it to my university in hopes that my project would be one of the few selected and awarded a grant. I still remember how unbelievably ecstatic I was when I received the email saying that my university was going to fund my trip and research here at CCF.
What an adventure it has been. The cheetah conservation fund has become a home for me for the past 57 days. I had no idea how much this organization does, it’s truly astounding.
My main focus while being here has been my research project on the diet of carnivores in the area. I spent most of my days working hard in the genetic and scat lab but I have gotten a taste of all aspects of CCF during my time here. I have participated in everything from feeding and walking the dogs and puppies to tracking cheetahs to making goat cheese in the creamery.
One of my favorite activities was spending the day with the husbandry team. This entails feeding the more wild cheetahs. You get to stand in the back of a pick up truck with meat while the cheetahs chase behind the vehicle. I can’t begin to explain how mesmerizing it is to see a cheetah run at that speed. I also got the chance to spend 12 hours in a hide in the bush doing a waterhole count. My partner and I kept track of all the animals that used the waterhole, recording what direction they came from, if they were male or female, how many were in the group etc. I also went on two game counts in a safari vehicle and used a range finder to determine where exactly we saw the animal and recorded it. I never got tired of looking at the wildlife here as it’s breathtaking.
One of my favorite moments here at CCF was standing in on one of the cheetahs work ups. I got to listen to the heartbeat of a cheetah. Seeing everyone in the room around me so focused on their individual task but at the same time working seamlessly as a functioning team was amazing. I have always had a passion for animals and been interested in veterinary medicine since I was young so this was truly a moving experience for me
I have learned more than I ever thought I could in only two months. I sat in on different lectures about everything from poaching to surgery techniques used on cheetahs. I learned about CCF’s Bushblok program and the Livestock Guarding Dog Program. This experience has opened my eyes to so many things. Being able to work with people from all around the world who share the same passion for animals has been a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.
I will miss the nights around the campfire with the other interns and staff telling stories and taking pictures of the stars and watching the sunset from the water tower. I can’t thank everyone enough for being so welcoming to me since day one. It has really made this place feel like home.