On the Road for the 2015 Spring Tour

  • by Dr. Laurie Marker May 28, 2015
On the Road for the 2015 Spring Tour

Early in 2015 I spent considerable time taking the CCF message out on the road, first traveling through Europe, then the United States and then on to the United Arab Emirates. All combined, I was traveling from February 8 through May 1, 2015, with only a few days at home in Namibia between the European and U.S. tours to touch base and repack for the next leg of my journey. Teresia Robitschko, my assistant, traveled with me this year assisting in all the activities and meetings.

My first public speaking event in Europe was on February 11 at the Bristol Zoo Gardens in Bristol, England, followed the next day with a guest lecture at my graduate school alma mater, Oxford University, at the WildCRU. Another stop on the tour was at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and the IUCN Global Species Programme office in Gland, Switzerland, where I gave a presentation titled 25 Years of Conservation – Changing the World to Save the Cheetah. In Europe, I visited 13 cities in seven countries and appeared at 16 events within the span of three-and-a-half weeks. Thank goodness I packed light!
A special highlight of the tour for me was The First European Cheetah Workshop, a two-day conference organized with and held at the Safari Park Beekse Bergen in the Netherlands. The event brought together facilities in the EU that have captive cheetah populations to talk about the European breeding programs. I met so many of the people I interact with regularly through my long-time work as the International Cheetah Studbook Keeper. All are committed to working hard to save the cheetah for future generations. I was able to share a lot of knowledge about proper care and management and suggestions to assist their breeding programs, along with information about good nutrition, disease issues and genetic concerns, along with CCF’s Dr. Anne Schmidt Küntzel, who met us in the Netherlands for the conference.

I began my spring tour of the U.S. with an event in Washington, D.C. honoring Hi Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. The event was the International Conservation Caucus Foundation Gala, the same event where I was given the same Good Stewardship Award in 2013. I felt very honored to be in the audience. Prince Charles is highly intelligent with a wonderful sense of humor and a rich, mellifluous voice. His dedication and his family’s dedication to conservation is well known, and I so appreciate all he has done for conservation.

From D.C., I flew to New York for meetings and the Explorers Club Annual Dinner with Constance Difede, Explorer’s Club Vice President for Flag and Honors. Our welcoming cocktail reception the day before was held aboard the carrier Intrepid, which was very exciting – except for the fact that it was snowing very hard. Having just arrived from Namibia it was a shock and I did not expect to arrive in New York City to a snowstorm on March 20! By Saturday, the snow stopped and we had a great evening at the American Museum of Natural History with my fellow Explorers and conservationists. It was fantastic to see some old friends and make some new ones, including Explorers Club honoree and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson and one of our CCF Trustee’s husbands from the Explorer’s Club, Bruce Blanchard.

During this tour, I had the distinct opportunity to speak at several zoos, with my next stop being the Indianapolis Zoo (I also gave talks at Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, the Santa Barbara Zoo, and the Living Desert in Palm Desert, California). I also lectured for the first time at the California Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, highlighting the past 25 years of work to save this endangered species with a talk titled The Life of Cheetahs. Both the event as well as my lecture was hosted by WCN.

It was a delight to have had five special ambassador cheetah events throughout the U.S. to help support CCF programs during our 25th anniversary year. All of the events where well-attended and made a huge impact on the success of the tour.
My first cheetah event was hosted in Oklahoma City by CCF Trustee Vicki Gourley, with the support of CCF Trustee Suzi Rapp from the Columbus Zoo. It was held at a fabulous new downtown penthouse apartment overlooking the Oklahoma City skyline nicknamed the “Cheetah Pad,” with ambassador cheetah Misi, Jack Hanna’s frequent partner on The Late Show with David Letterman.

I also enjoyed the wonderful opportunity to be hosted by CCF Trustee Emanuel Friedman, Kindy Friedman and Simone Friedman of EJF Philanthropies at the beautiful Houston home of Nick and Katie Johnson for my second major fundraising event of the tour.

The Houston Zoo supported the event with two ambassador cheetahs. Our presentation covered the mission of CCF these past 25 years and our conservation programs, and about 120 guests were in attendance. It was a great event!

My last three cheetah events were in California, beginning with a party at Dawson Cole Fine Art in Carmel. The gallery was featuring an exhibit of the work of local artist Richard MacDonald, who hosted the event with his daughter Michelle. (Follow the link to view his beautiful bronze sculptures) The Wild Cat Education & Conservation Fund brought a special ambassador cheetah to support the cause.

In Southern California, we held two fundraising events with cheetahs. The first was in Palm Springs at the gorgeous new home of Roswitha Smale, a CCF Sundowner with a fashion show featuring the beautifully handpainted Animal Fashions by Jordan and an appearance by ambassador cheetah Masika from Wild Wonders. The second was in Sherman Oaks where CCF Trustees Elizabeth Marquart and Alan Feldstein hosted the 4th annual Meetah Cheetah event. Both were sold out and captured the spirit of celebration for this year’s 25th anniversary milestone celebration.

My U.S. tour lasted over five weeks and took me to eight states and 20 cities. All of these incredible events were made possible through the dedication and support of our CCF Board and Trustees and the local CCF chapters and volunteers, together with the cooperation of the various conservation and educational facilities that support CCF through their ambassador cheetah programs.

From the U.S., I flew directly to Abu Dhabi to present at a Saharan species wildlife conservation conference held by the Sahel Saharan Interest Group (SSIG) and the Saharan Conservation Foundation. I spoke about the illegal wildlife trade as it involves cheetahs. Since the conference was being held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I talked about the illegal pet trade and the work we are doing with our UAE partners to collect and bank blood and sperm samples from the animals that come through their facilities. I also talked about how we work with facilities and veterinarians to build awareness around the illegal cheetah trade in the Gulf region. While at the conference, we met up with people from Niger who were trained at CCF in conservation, and many other long-time friends working in these Sahal Saharan regions of Africa. It was so great to see them there!

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