On our first day at CCF, we met Bruce (the general manager of CCF), who took us to feed their three five-month-old cheetah cubs, named Phoenix, Seria, and Quasar. They were like adorable little housecat-sized cheetahs. We got to feed them by putting a little piece of meat in our palm and they would come and eat it off our hand. We even got to pet them. It felt really amazing to be with baby cheetahs, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Even though they've been raised by hand since they were three days old, you can really tell that they are still wild, so petting them was really exciting.
The next day we went to the cheetah run, which is when they use a rag tied to a string that goes around a big square in the cheetah's enclosure and the cheetahs chase it. The three cheetah siblings that were doing the run won't be able to be re-introduced into the wild since they were orphaned as babies, so running them isn't meant to teach them how to hunt, but it's important for them to get exercise.
Next we went to feed some of the more "wild" cheetahs. This is how it works--you go in a truck, adults in the back of the flatbed, while Stefan and I where in the cab. As we were driving, the adults threw big chunks of meat out of the back and the cheetahs would run after the truck to get it. They made the cheetahs run a bit before throwing them the meat so these cheetahs got their exercise too.
Some of the cheetahs that were only temporarily staying at CCF weren't used to the truck, so we got out of the truck to feed them. When we did this, Stefan and I got to throw the meat over the fence to four waiting cheetahs. That was really fun.
Another thing we got to do was feed the Anatolian herding dog puppies. One of the things CCF does, is give the puppies to farmers because they keep cheetahs away if they come to close to the livestock and then the farmers won't shoot them. Anyway, back to the puppies ... to feed the puppies we have big trays of food and when we put them down, all the tiny puppies would come running to eat. They were all so cute piling on top of each other to get to the food.
Besides feeding the animals, we also helped out by cleaning the cheetah enclosures. We did lots of weeding so that their enclosures weren't overgrown. The reason that's important is because the cheetah keepers need to be able to go in there to collect scat, which is cheetah poop. Sounds a bit gross, but they need it to check their DNA and make sure the cheetahs are staying healthy.
We spent a lot of time with the two cheetah keepers, Kate and Matt, and I spent some time interviewing Matt about the cheetahs and what he does at CCF. Here's what he told me:
Tyler: How long have you worked at CCF?
Matt: I've worked at CCF for seven months now.
Tyler: What made you come all the way from England to work here?
Matt: I've always wanted to work with big cats and I've always loved cheetahs.
Tyler: What is your favorite part about working with cheetahs?
Matt: I like how you get to know all the cats and their personalities.
Tyler: Can you tell which cheetah's which just by looking at it? (Remember, he has 50 of them to keep straight!)
Matt: Yes, it's very important to know all the cheetahs by name so that we know if they're eating properly and some of them have to take medicine. It took me three weeks to be able to immediately recognize all of them.
Tyler: How many dogs do you have at CCF?
Matt: Right now we have 17 puppies and 9 adults.
Tyler: Why do you use goats to train the puppies?
Matt: To get the puppies used to farm animals. Once they go to the farmers, their job will be to protect the farmer's livestock.
We were sad to leave all of the cheetahs and puppies, but now we're off to go on a mobile camping safari with some other friends from home. I'll tell you all about that in my next blog.