Intern Story

Drones, Dogs and all things Cheetah

  • by Holly Atkinson July 21, 2022
Drones, Dogs and all things Cheetah

I am an MSc graduate in Global Wildlife Health and Conservation from the University of Bristol, UK. Although I completed my Masters project with CCF, I had actually known about the organisation for many years and had completed an assignment in high school on cheetah conservation, which addressed the efforts of CCF. I have now been at CCF for almost 6 months and very soon I will be returning home.

Helping the Gardening team dig holes to plant grape vines
Kaarina and me during International Cheetah Day

Being at CCF has given me the chance to learn so much about all aspects of cheetah conservation. In particular, I have been able to develop my spatial ecology skills and my GIS skillset is now much larger than it was. I was able to explore pretty much every corner of CCF land during drone-based habitat mapping that I employed to help me with GIS landscape classification. This has been a particularly memorable experience, partly because of how many times things went wrong and how many completely overgrown and almost unsurpassable routes we had to take. There was no in-between with the pace of the work – we were either patiently waiting for the drone to complete its mission or rushing to get to the next survey location and throw the drone up before the dreaded clouds came to cover the sun and decrease drone picture quality. We saw so much wildlife and were able to enjoy the peacefulness of such a wide range of habitats.

However the memorable experiences don’t just lie within spatial ecology. I have had some of the best times working with other departments. From lifting sedated cheetahs into catch cages for work-ups and carrying armfuls of wriggling puppies, to helping to engage the public and present the work of the Ecology department on International Cheetah Day. I have also even been lucky to sometimes share the office with two of my favourite dogs, Mena and Enya, who are trained in cheetah scat detection. I have been exposed to so much and made some really good friends, and I will always be really grateful to CCF for these experiences.

CCF's Scat Detection Dogs love getting attention toy rewards both during and after work.

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