Intern Story

Splitting Hairs on Species

  • by Mariska Bijsterbosch January 25, 2014
Splitting Hairs on Species

Hi, my name is Mariska Bijsterbosch. at the beginning of September I came to the Cheetah Conservation Fund to do an internship as part of my study Wildlife Management, which I study in the Netherlands. It seemed quite scary at the beginning, so far and long from home, but I quickly felt really welcome and at home.

Since I have been here I have done so many different activities, too much to mention them all. I took care of cheetahs, dogs, horses and goats, did administrative tasks and went out to count game. I even made cheese and soap, something that I never would have expected! I also had a special project, which was a hair analysis project. In cheetah scat you can find hair, and when you examine these hairs under the microscope, you can find out what species the cheetah has been eating. Most hairs from different species have a unique pattern. However it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish this pattern, and here is where my project came in. Instead of the hair pattern, I looked at cross sections of the hairs, and tried to find out if this is an easier way of determining species. It turned out that for some species cross sections are indeed a better method to use.

The highlight of my stay at CCF was the capture and release of cheetahs into the wild. During my time here five cheetahs were released, which is the reason why CCF exists, to keep cheetahs in the wild! I also helped with tracking the cheetahs, who wore GPS/VHF collars. In the field, we start with the GPS point and from there you try to track them with radio telemetry. Sadly we did not find one that day, but nevertheless it was a great experience!

My internship is almost over and after these five months it will be very strange to go back to the ‘normal’ life. I have learned many things at CCF, and made many new friends. One thing is for sure, although my time is almost running out here, I will come back!

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