I chose to come to CCF as one of my projects for the two year program I am finishing at Moorpark College. I will graduate with an Associates degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management. Prior to Moorpark, I obtained a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Syracuse University. I worked for SpaceX as a mechanical designer for 7 years, and played professional beach volleyball for 15 years. I became very interested in wildlife conservation, which is why I chose to go to Moorpark, as well as to CCF.
I spent the majority of my time at CCF working with the cheetah husbandry team. I was fortunate to work with some very knowledgeable and caring staff that went out of their way to answer any questions I had and to share their knowledge with me. I learned a lot about not only the natural history of cheetahs, but of their care and management in captivity, and how they can be assessed for release back into the wild. CCF takes in orphaned and injured cheetahs, and when possible will take the necessary steps to prepare them for release back into the wild. The cheetahs at CCF live in large, natural habitats and have daily opportunities for exercise. I also worked with the livestock guardian dogs which are bred and trained at CCF to be protectors of Namibian farmers livestock, thereby reducing human wildlife conflict with cheetahs.
I had the opportunity to spend several mornings learning about critically endangered species. We also did evening and night game counts, in which I spotted many types of wildlife. I spent time with the ecologist, who taught me about the science of estimating animal densities and populations for carnivores as well as herbivores. I learned about camera trap placement and how instrumental it is in a variety of research. I was able to ride along with a PhD candidate who was studying the behavior of cavity nesting birds. I listened to a fascinating talk about termite behavior, in particular regarding their mound creation and maintenance, and role in the ecosystem. I learned about conservancies, and how they are instrumental in the success of Namibia’s natural resource management programs. I spent a morning in the field watching the scat detection dogs work, as well as learned how to identify various types of carnivore scat.
Due to the short time period of my internship (2 weeks), I tried to make myself useful to other interns who needed help with their projects. I learned to identify and sort camera trap photos, focusing on identifying carnivores such as leopards, cheetahs, jackals, brown hyena, aardvark, etc.
The staff as well as the other interns and working guests were very friendly, making it easy to make new friends. It was fun to meet people from different backgrounds and share stories. I made friendships with people in this short time that I will be keeping in touch with in the future. On my day off, I made a quick trip to Etosha National Park, where we were lucky to spot a white rhino and a large bull elephant.
CCF is an amazing place to work and learn. It was fascinating to be surrounded by so many people who are passionate about conservation, and have so many different perspectives and research interests. I chose to come to CCF because I knew it was a legitimate conservation organization that understood that working with the local communities is the most viable way to improve the lives of not only the people, but the wildlife as well. I was able to see and learn very specifically the many ways that CCF accomplishes this, and the positive impact they are having on the surrounding communities. My experience here has not only confirmed my interest in preserving wildlife, but inspired me to take further action in this global struggle.