From Virginia to Namibia – Volunteering for CCF on Two Continents
- by Jeanine Wittlinger September 18, 2018
I am a veterinary technician and I arrived at CCF Namibia this week to volunteer as a working guest in their Veterinary Clinic for the next three months. I have also been volunteering twice a week at CCF’s main U.S. office in Alexandria, VA since March of this year. I am an avid animal lover and a longtime supporter of conservation.
My love for big cats began when I saw the movie “Born Free” as a young girl. I fell in love with the mischievous lion cub Elsa, and the love and commitment Joy Adamson showed her to ensure she lived a life free in the wild. From there my love for big cats grew exponentially. The elusive leopard, the powerful tiger, the mighty lion and the elegant cheetah all began to fill my world with wonder and awe. I became inspired by the powerful women that were making a difference in the study of different species of animals. My first introduction being Joy Adamson in Kenya with her three orphaned lion cubs. I then became aware of the work Jane Goodall was doing with chimpanzees in Tanzania. The movie “Gorillas in the Mist” introduced me to the life and work of Dian Fossey with mountain group gorillas in Rwanda. These women stood at the pinnacle for animal welfare and conservation for me; and then I met Dr. Laurie Marker.
In 2012, I was finishing up my veterinary technology degree, when my close friend and co-vet tech student, Alexis, informed me that CCF was having a Meet-A-Cheetah event on the rooftop of her building. I immediately purchased tickets for my daughter and myself and counted the days until the event. I can remember the exact moment Dr. Marker walked in with the ambassador cheetah Moya, and Moya’s dog companion. I had to catch my breath I was so excited. I remember being struck by how strong and confident Dr. Marker seemed as she spoke about the plight of the cheetah and its rapid decline in total population. I was transfixed by the facts she knew and the relationship she had with the cheetah. That was the day I decided I wanted to learn more about the world’s most endangered cat, and that I would one day volunteer at CCF in Namibia.
It is now six years later and the dream I dreamed as a little girl is finally a reality! As I write this article, I am sitting in the Veterinary Clinic alongside Dr. Robin Gieling at CCF Namibia. Among the incredible activities I have been out in the field the last two days with the cheetah handler team and Dr. Gieling, observing them treat a sick cheetah patient, watched them successfully re-introduce three orphaned siblings, and helped treat a kid goat with pneumonia in the clinic. I could not have imagined that life would have lead me on this path, but it’s exactly where I always dreamed I would be.
I have been heading up an outreach project to our nation’s zoos, aquariums, parks and veterinary clinics/hospitals, with the help of KC Braesch, to organize veterinary supply donations to bring with me to our clinic in Namibia. Our veterinarian, Dr. Robin Gieling, put together a CCF Clinic Wish List that highlights items ranging from high-to-low priority, including many items that are unavailable for purchase in Namibia. Some of the organizations that have donated generous amounts of much needed drugs, supplies and lab/surgical equipment include:
- The Bronx Zoo/WCS
- Shedd Aquarium
- Phoenix Zoo
- Alexandria Park Zoo
- Woodland Park Zoo
- Gladys Porter Zoo
These donations make it possible for the veterinary team in Namibia to give the best possible care to our resident cheetahs, Anatolian Shepherds and goats, as well as incoming orphaned and injured cheetah they receive on a regular basis. Volunteers travel to CCF Namibia year-round and are able to personally deliver the items that are received. The veterinary wish list is posted on the CCF website’s Clinic Wish List for anyone who is interested in donating much needed medicines and supplies. Please consider helping in our mission to save the magnificent cheetah from extinction.
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