Sixteen Years of Earth Expeditions Program at CCF

  • by Annetjie Pöntinen July 10, 2019
Sixteen Years of Earth Expeditions Program at CCF

With a special thank you message by Ignatius Davids

This year marks 16 years of a long standing relationship between CCF and Miami University’s Earth Expeditions program created by Project Dragonfly. Earth Expeditions is a global education and conservation program offered to graduate students, and courses count toward a master’s degree in global leadership, education, and environmental stewardship through the Global Field Program.

Every year for the past 15 years, CCF has hosted students and instructors from Earth Expeditions – in some years CCF has hosted two groups, each staying for a period of 10 days. This year was no exception as we welcomed instructors Dan Marsh and Sarah Navarro from the Cincinnati Zoo, along with their 19 students all eager to learn about CCF’s conservation, research and education programs. Some of the students having never been to Africa before could not help but be inspired by how such a small research and education Centre in the middle of nowhere could be leading in conservation, and making such a huge impact in the lives of so many livestock farmers through the Livestock Guarding Dog (LGD) Program.

One of the first activities CCF’s Education Department does with the students and instructors on their first day at CCF is, take them on a safari drive through the “Little Serengeti” where they get to see (some for the very first time) species such as; springbok, steenbok, ostrich, giraffe, black-backed jackal, khori bustard, warthog, bat-eared fox, oryx and kudu (just to name a few).

The expression on the students’ faces is one which really shows appreciation for Namibian fauna, and what a privilege it is for them to see these species in their natural environment. This safari drive according to Dan Marsh, helps to cement this first time experience to CCF and Namibia. The other inspiring moment for these students is when they meet Dr. Laurie Marker who officially welcomes them. She talks about her history of how she started CCF, and what led to her passion for this magnificent species. Maybe more importantly to all the young women in conservation is, how a woman navigated her way through a male-dominated field – which she gladly shares.

Through the 10 days that students visit CCF, all CCF departments are involved in showcasing what it means to be practically involved in conservation of one of the most endangered African large cats. The CCF Model Farm is a perfect opportunity for first hand learning of one of the most effective ways in which CCF contributes to the conservation of cheetahs. CCF leads by example by not only telling farmers what needs to be done, but shows farmers how it is done – walking the talk – and this is perhaps one of those moments which really is the take home message for how conservation is possible through strategies that help maximize economic benefit for the people affected by human-predator conflict. At this point, students learn that for any conservation strategy to work, it has to be a win-win situation for both species of concern and group of people.

CCF also teaches and shows Earth Expeditions students that there is no one single way to achieving conservation, instead CCF takes a holistic approach which include; Veterinary Sciences through our full time Vet Clinic, Genetics through the Scat Detection Program, Ecology & Biology through the Camera-trap survey on CCF land, Eco-Tourism through our guided tour programs, Education through our Centre-based and outreach programs, farm & livestock management through our Model Farm & Cattle Farm, and conservation through the Bushblok and LGD programmes. This holistic approach to conservation is what we believe has led to this continued long-term partnership between Miami University and CCF through the Earth Expeditions Program. We enjoyed working with students this June, and we look forward to the next group of students this July.

Thanks to Earth Expeditions

By Ignatius Davids

The experience I had working with the group of this year was extremely educational for me. I was responsible for helping them move around to their respective activities on their program. They were a group who was genuinely interested in the conservation education work CCF does at our Research and Education Centre and within the conservancies and communities.

Every Earth Expeditions group has their own dynamics. With this year’s younger groups, they were very energetic. They were also interested in the conservation education outreach programs that CCF is hosting at schools around the country.

The questions they asked were well thought out and they made the facilitators job of presenting to them very exciting because of their interest. They were fascinated on every subject presented. From being taught about techniques used in small livestock farming to prevent predation on livestock and the use of Livestock Guarding Dogs to learning about conservation genetics, I could see that their level of interest would not diminish even though they were learning about very different subjects in a short space of time.

I have also learned a lot from this group on what they do back home in their respective fields of employment. We were happy to welcome the Earth Expeditions volunteers who represented a Zoologist, a wolf Conservationist and some high school teachers. It was wonderful to learn about the passion they have for their fields of work and how excited they were to be in Namibia to learn about and experience the work that CCF does. They were also keen to learn about the diverse cultural aspects of our country. We are always excited for Earth Expeditions annual visits. As educators, we get the chance to share our thoughts, the obstacles we face and the rewards of teaching adults and children about conservation.

Moses the bus driver for the group, who is such a patient person and also an experienced driver, goes beyond the call of duty to always make the group’s experience stress free. You can see Moses is on the right side, next to Dr. Laurie Marker in the banner image at the top of this post.

Thank you to Earth Expeditions for being committed and loyal friends of Cheetah Conservation Fund for many years now and we hope for many more to come.

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