After my time at Cheetah Outreach, I traveled up to Bloemfontein in the Free State in South Africa to Cheetah Experience. From here I have been able to gain cub rearing experience and I have worked hands on with the Cheetah.
Cheetah Experience is run by Riana Van Nieuwenhuizen, the founder and owner of the non-profit organisation Fiela Funds Cheetah, trading as Cheetah Experience. It was founded in 2006 with the goal of promoting the conservation of Cheetah and other endangered species, looking into behavioural research and breeding Cheetahs - which they have done very successfully.
The intention is to release Cheetahs back into a ‘protected wild’, where there will be minimal human interaction. Cheetah will still be monitored closely by vets and researchers in order to gain better insight into their behaviour and lifestyle. The aim is to also introduce a new Cheetah bloodline into this protected area to help with genetic diversity among the Cheetahs.
They have 33 Cheetah at the facility. Lions, a Siberian Tiger, Leopards, Serval, Meerkats, Wolves and Caracal. With around six staff members and lots of volunteers who they treat very well are made to feel a part of the cheetah experience family.
So far I have spent ten days at the Cheetah Experience facility and during my time, I have been predominantly focused on the care and nursing of two young Cheetah females who are housed separately.
This has been a hands-on task as I have been taught their hand rearing protocol, which includes sleeping over with the cats, specialised feeding and vaccinating of the Cheetah cubs. I have discovered that hand rearing protocols differ at each facility, which is changeable depending on the requirements of individual cubs.
I have also been involved in the daily husbandry and enrichment of the animals. The majority of the animals have been hand reared so they seek out human contact. Animal enrichment plays an important role on the welfare of these hand raised animals. The volunteers, who have been trained to handle the various animals at the facility, are encouraged to spend as much time with the animals as they can.
The staff here really show there dedication to the animals through their hard work and time spent with the cats. As a non-profit organisation, the facility relies on their valued team of volunteers and donations to function.
I have really enjoyed my time at Cheetah Experience and I can’t wait to apply the skills I have learnt so far and share my knowledge with the rest of the Wellington Zoo community.