Linda and I (Charles) first visited CCF as working guests in 2004 through Earthwatch as working volunteers. It feels like there was nothing that we did not get involved with on our trip. We helped with feeding the resident cheetahs, cleaning pens, preparing scat samples for genetic analysis, helping with game counts our on CCF’s reserve, feeding and walking the Model Farm’s livestock guard dogs, a bit of administrative organization; and in Linda’s case, helping to monitor the vital signs of an anaesthetized cheetah for a procedure in the clinic and administering vaccinations to some of the goats. It was during this stay that we had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Marker, meeting Chewbaaka (Ambassador Cheetah) and working with Matti Nghikembua (Senior Ecologist and Forest Steward).
After our first trip to Namibia we varied our international travel for a while, but still maintained our interest in CCF. Luckily for us, we were able to attend some CCF events in the Pacific Northwest, namely a couple of the “Big Cat, Big Party” events in Portland, as well as an event with Laurie in Seattle. We always recalled our trip in 2004 and Linda always had a real love affair with the cheetah and in late 2017 we recognized a desire to go back to Namibia and began planning for our trip in 2018.
During the planning phase we learned that CCF had continued to grow, and now boasted the brand new Cheetah View Lodge, so we arranged to stay there for the upcoming trip. While a bit further of a walk to the main part of the Centre, we enjoyed it tremendously. It was worth every extra step. We again helped with many of the staff tasks, hoping that our help made their lives a bit easier. Much like our first visit we bonded with the staff, in particular, the cheetah keepers and the dog keepers who we worked closely with. We had hoped to connect with Matti again but were disappointed that although he was still with CCF we would miss him as he was pursuing his Ph.D. in Finland.
Reflecting on our great and fulfilling experience in 2018, it wasn’t long before we began planning for a return trip in 2019. When we arrived, we were almost overwhelmed at the welcome we received from those we had worked with the previous year. It was great to be back. We know that working guests (the manner in which we have visited all three times now) are there to experience, learn and help, so we were extra mindful to make sure that we assist with all of the daily chores, hoping to make the staff’s work day a bit easier. Unfortunately, we again missed seeing Matti due to educational commitments. For now, we’ll just have to be satisfied by following his career in the CCF newsletters.
All in all, we receive great personal satisfaction knowing that we were participating in an extremely important project.