Everything must begin somewhere and for the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Somaliland it began with Safe House 1. Helping to educate and combat the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) and aiding the Ministry of Environment & Rural Development (MoERD) with confiscations, the cheetah of many of which must be put somewhere under our protection and care, That was Safe House 1.
Safe House 1
is a compound just outside the capitol city of Hargeisa which CCF began constructing in May of 2018. Safe House 1 also houses has a small veterinary clinic to provide an excellent standard of care for the confiscated cheetah cubs. Time goes on and with more confiscations and amazing medical care these cheetah started to thrive and grow very quickly, so naturally space became a problem. But thinking forward and taking initiative the team came together to construct a brand new facility close by, Safe House 2, which was begun in September 2019 and completed in March of 2020. I joined CCF in April 2020, as the Senior Cheetah Keeper. For the past 6 years, I have worked in zoos across the world with a variety of large felids, I joined the team to help train local staff and to provide expert care to these confiscated cats.
Safe House 2
is a vast compound with brand new enclosures designed to provide a safe naturalistic environment to the growing cheetah cubs, whilst also providing plenty of space for them to runs and play. With the Safe Houses being 100 metres apart from each other how do you move 27 Cheetah of different sizes and bonded groups from one facility to the other?
Transportation of cheetahs and other bigs cats is a common practice, using specifically designed transport crates made from lightweight durable material, and training the cats. Once you have the crate how do you ensure a stress free process for a 25 + kilo cheetah to come inside? By desensitizing them to the crate by giving them the chance to investigate it in their own time with it being inside their enclosure. During this process we can separate the individuals before feeding them their main meal, we can put their food inside the crate then let them enter and find it. The crate has now become furniture of their home. They become comfortable sitting down chewing on their food fully inside the crate, stress free and happy. Their main feed inside the crate resembles a reward for entering on their own, so it becomes a positive action. Time and patience for anything new to an animal’s life we’re trying to change is a great way to ensure success whilst also creating a strong bond with each other.
After working closely with the medical team and getting the all clear for the move, we hand picked the first groups to be moved into specific enclosures at the new Safe House 2. The first group included a group of 6 adult males, a group 4 adult females, 2 groups of 2 adult females, 3 sub-adult males and 10 cubs. Each cheetah at Safe House 1 has had the choice of crate training and were fully prepared. Following the routine of training, they entered the transport crate easily. The crate door was shut, the crate was then carried onto the transport vehicle. Then, a slow short drive to their new home and then, unloading the crate, and we carry it into their new enclosure where we open the crate door. A brief hesitance and curiosity, as all their senses try to figure out what has just happened before leaving the crate. It doesn’t take them long to start exploring their environment, rolling around in the grass and flowers or taking some elegant running strides around their new space!
Finally, after a few weeks, all of the cheetahs were moved out of Safe House 1 to Safe House 2, and they are all showing signs of happiness and comfort in their new enclosures. This has been an amazing team effort to help provide a great quality of life for all these rescued cheetah. We will always be looking into the future to constantly offer more for these amazing animals. Thank you all who have helped us at CCF Somaliland.