My name is Margaret Wilkie. I became besotted (or maybe be-spotted!) by the cheetah when I read a Smithsonian Magazine article about CCF in 2008. I decided then and there that I had to see them for myself sometime. And after five years, four reschedules, and two surgeries, I am finally here in Namibia for two months with my beloved cheetahs! Every morning when I wake up, I think I’m in Oz. In spite of being dry and dusty, this place is an artist’s/photographer’s dream – full of beautiful terrain, color, and action! I walk around drunk on the beauty here. Each day brings new friends to love, both animal and human.
During my time so far, I have had the supreme pleasures of bottle feeding baby kids, searching for cheetah poo (CCF is very big into poo for scientific testing or training their scat detection dogs), being present during a cheetah’s annual medical checkup (I actually buried my face into an anesthetized Luna’s fur to see if she smelled like my pet cats at home – she didn’t. She smelled like dirt, and surprisingly, faintly of cardamom, a sweet spice.), walking on the wild side with Ryan feeding the 30+ wilder cheetahs that can perhaps be released someday, watching a cheetah run – the cheetahs chase a red piece of cloth at 40 mph around a huge remote-controlled racetrack for exercise and entertainment (sometimes they rip the cloth right off the track and “kill” it, and they have to be bought off with a chunk of meat to give it up), and seeing the Milky Way galaxy every night on my way to bed. CCF work can be dusty, bloody, sticky, sweaty, smelly, milky, and exhausting, but I love it and take a big swan dive right into the middle of it each day. I love the people here -it’s as easy to make friends as it was back in first grade!
I am so thankful to Dr. Marker for envisioning and bringing to life this incredible crucible for the cheetah’s survival. Here, the cheetah comes first, as it must. Before I left for Namibia, I told everyone that I was going to be working with the cheetahs for the summer. I realize now that the correct phrase is working FOR the cheetahs, for everything here, and everything we do is for them and their ultimate benefit. Long after I return home, I will always be thankful for what Dr. Laurie and the cheetahs taught me this magical summer.