My name is Foibe Ndapwoshisho Kadenga, just a young girl from the northern part of Namibia, trying to develop myself personally, professionally and make a career. I recently completed a three-year Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at the Namibia University of Science Technology (NUST). I believe that for me to reach my career goal I have to get out there, get as much exposure as I can, and this is why I took the opportunity to do my internship with the Cheetah Conservation Funds (CCF) Genetics Laboratory. I went from being just a young girl to a woman in conservation!
I first learned about the CCF Genetics Laboratory and their internship opportunities from a friend, which motivated me to look them up online and got me hooked. With my little knowledge in genetics and yet to be put to work research skills, I applied for an internship position at CCF and before I knew it, the “WE ARE PLEASED TO INFORM YOU” was in my inbox. After my acceptance, my desire and the will to learn about conservation genetics, the cheetah in particular, and how CCF has contributed to this field, was burning inside me and I could not wait to get to CCF.
I arrived at CCF on the 22 July, in the middle of a pandemic. I had my face mask on. Though I am used to handshaking, especially when I am meeting new people to feel welcome, it was a different story. I had to disinfect my hands at all time. However, it was a warm welcome for me, from the CCF team, cheetahs, and I was ready to begin my new life away from the city noise. On my first day I was already settled in and got to catch up with my friend who was the only genetics laboratory intern at the time. The following day I was already at work HELPING SAVE THE CHEETAH.
When I first arrived at CCF I didn’t really know what to expect. I had laboratory experience but not in a genetics laboratory. Nevertheless, the laboratory team made sure I started off well. Plus, I found my friend in the lab and got to learn a lot from him. During the early days of my internship in the genetics laboratory, I got a chance to shadow other members of the lab, which allowed me to get a clear idea of how things are done in the genetics laboratory and also familiarize myself with the lab techniques. Despite my limited knowledge in conservation, the genetics laboratory taught me a lot. Here I get the chance to work with a variety of instruments, incuding a genetics analyser, which I have never worked with, not even during my studies at the university. The practical side of microsatellite loci analysis for individual identification was all new to me, but helped me put some of my knowledge to work.
CCF has a lot to offer for a recent graduate, not just in the field of genetics. I get the chance to witness the CCF scat dogs at work, searching for the cheetah scat used for genetic analysis. I also help our Ecology team with monthly game counts. I get to witness the CCF Veterinary team at work, and I help the cheetah keepers take care of the resident cheetahs. Having never been exposed to animals, I have a fear of animals, but despite this fear I get to help out with CCF’s small livestock and guarding dogs. And I can tell you this now: the fear is still there, but it is starting to wear off.
I was lucky enough to be at CCF during the International Cheetah Day. I was one of the interns that took part in educating people about cheetahs in our nearby town, Otjiwarongo. It was fun!
My passion for genetics and research in general is strengthened by the work that I do at CCF. I am very thankful for the opportunity to contribute to saving wild cheetahs, and for the opportunity to learn the techniques to do so. I am developing a great interest in ecology, conservation biology and in genetics here at CCF, and I intend to seize wholeheartedly every opportunity there is in conservation. Many thanks to CCF’s diverse team of professionals, and all the donors who make training experiences like these possible for young Namibians like myself! Next year I will be back at university to continue with my Honours degree, and I will always have with me the knowledge and skills that I learned in conservation genetics, and who knows, maybe I will come back!