After a two-year break caused by COVID-19, the Earth Expeditions Course at Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) resumed this year with the traditional two student and instructional groups participating in this 10-day conservation course. There was a lot of uncertainty around whether this course was going to take place this year as we had to cancel the 2020 course as well as the 2021 course at last minute. We were very excited when the bus of students and instructors arrived at our camp Lightfoot, with the moment feeling a littles surreal for Education Manager, Annetjie Pöntinen and Senior Educator, Ignatius Davids.
CCF has been hosting the Earth Expeditions Course (commonly known by CCF staff as Earth Ex) since 2004 – 16 years in a row until COVID-19 forced us to take a 2-year hiatus. This course is offered as part of a Master’s program housed at Miami University in collaboration with Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. The field portion of the Earth Ex Course is known as Namibia: Great Cat Conservation, in partnership with CCF. The first group of 20 students and two instructors was at CCF from 1 – 10 July and the second group of 18 students and two instructors participated in the course from 21 – 30 July.
The second group’s trip coincided with the visit from the Somaliland delegation. Dr. Laurie Marker introduced the delegation to the Earth Ex group. Somaliland’s Minister Shukri H. Ismail of the Somaliland Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoECC); Minister Mohamoud Hassan Saad, Minister of Trade and Tourism; Minister of Parliament Mubarak Musa Ismail, Chairman of the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, Production and Energy at Somaliland House of Representatives; Head of Mission to the United States, Bashir Goth; and Fatima Saeed, CCF’s Senior Advisor to Parliament were on a trip to explore the link between rural development, tourism and cheetah conservation in Namibia.
Students learned about CCF’s holistic approach to conservation from various departments including, Cheetah Husbandry, Ecology, Model Farm, Education, Biomass, Veterinary Clinic and Genetics. The second group of students was able to participate in CCF’s 12-hour Annual Waterhole Count, and important exercise which helps us understand wildlife species diversity and abundance on CCF’s over 58,000 hectares property.
Many thanks to the Cincinnati Zoo for donating two gently used projectors as well as two brand new two-way radios/GPSs, which will be very useful in our education and ecology programs. Students also donated brand new items including a tent, dog harnesses, seeds, educational materials and second-hand items including sleeping bags, a camera, and camera trap.