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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Very Active at CCF

Apologies, apologies.  It's been almost a quick seven weeks since I filed a field report.  Many circumstances including erratic internet service have hampered my effort to keep you apprised of the activity here at CCF.  Be that as it may, interns, volunteers, distinguished guests and visitors, students, teachers and scores of tourist have been here to work or visit.  CCF has been multitasked, but has answered the call for each occasion.
Many events have occurred since the African Safari 3-D film crew visited.  Recently our dairy goats and Anatolian Shepherds have provided us with new mouths to feed.  The vet clinic has responded with key service.  The cheetah cubs here at CCF Center have graduated from a small cheetah run course to the regular course.  Their progess in adopting and demonstrating their running and pursuing ability is outstanding.  Chester has been successfully operated on to remove a plate inserted in his leg from an old injury.  An attempt to merge Josie and Klein resulted in them refusing to share a pen together.  Kiana and Kayla were moved back to Bellebeno as they did not get along with their pen mates at the Eland camp.  The five cubs who were orphaned earlier this year, two siblings and three siblings, respectively, were merged from their separate pens to contiguous pens last month.  This past week they were merged in the same pen.  They will be monitored closely in the ensuing days, to see if they might adapt to each other.
The 24 kilometer fence line surrounding the large release camp in Bellebeno is being repaired in order to enable several cheetahs to be tested for potential release.  Plans are to introduce two to three groups of cheetahs separately, that is, at intervals into the huge release camp soon.  If these groups of cheetahs pass the 'survival' test, they become prime candidates for release back into the wild.  Wildlife organizations and other countries are seriously interested in having CCF cheetahs released to their care to be placed back in the wild.  This process at CCF in preparation for eventual release will commence soon.  Progress will be reported over the ensuing weeks and months ahead.  This process, is of course an exciting event in the conservation and preservation arena.  After all, our goal at CCF is to release captive cheetahs back into the wild whenever feasible.  And the feasibility for this to occur is very optimistic.  CCF last released cheetahs in February of this year.  They are the 'Chocolates.' Those four females were released to a wild game park in Erindi, Namibia, with recent reports disclosing their successful survival there.
I'll advise more on these potential releases in future postings.  Please tune in to learn of future developments at CCF, and especially about these potential cheetah releases.  I will keep you posted.

Until next,
this is Ron Marks
from Cheetah Land

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The movies visit CCF

Greetings from Namibia,
Yes, there really was a large film crew at CCF last week.  The crew of about fifteen rolled into the Babson House driveway six vehicles strong on Monday afternoon.  A complete crew with actor and actress were among the newest guests to visit CCF.  The 15-member crew was very international with about five countries represented.  Lucky me, I got to work and got to know most of them.  Laurie asked me to assist with some of the logistics at the locations they were shooting.  The producer and director were quite active calling all the shots.  They captured a lot of footage shooting three cheetah runs and many, many feedings from the back of "their" filming trucks.  Also, twice they shot footage from a balloon over "Little Serengeti" and at the Stars play tree.  Sarya stole the show as she rose higher in the tree than ever.  Phoenix was hell-bent on eating one of the pre-set cameras high in the tree until quickly removed.  In all several staff got involved lending support to the overall effort.
The production will be titled:  African Safari 3-D.  It will be a full-length documentary and could be released at a theatre near you as early as August 2012.  Basically, it is a journey across Southern Africa, beginning on Namibia's Atlantic coast and ending near or at Mount Kilimanjaro.  The two actors will narrate the adventure.  Many wildlife creatures will be featured.  We hope plenty of awareness about the cheetah and it's plight will be mentioned when the cheetah is featured.  My understanding is that the film will be either a Warner Bros. or Universal film.
Until next, this is
Ron Marks
from Cheetah Land

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Good Week at CCF

Greetings to all from Namibia,
Last week I reported on a couple of health issues with six of our cheetahs.  I am happy to report to you that most of the visible symptoms earlier detected have subsided.  Also, the health of each cheetah has greatly improved as the current prognosis is excellent.  The rapid response of our cheetah professionals assured these cheetahs immediate and appropriate care.  Based on their symptoms, the subsequent  appropriate medical protocol, and especially the ever-vigilant effort of our cheetah keeper, each of these magnificent predators are expected to make full recoveries.  Accordingly, the two having suspected 'bee' stings have already recovered fully.
Today a large film crew arrived at CCF.  The crew will spend the next few days filming our cheetahs in their natural habitat and during their 'cheetah lure' activity.  The crew is made up of individuals, some of who have participated on the production of I-Max films.  Also, many of them possess extensive 3-D experience.  Their two-person balloon, which sailed over Center Field ((Little Serengeti as many of you know it) this afternoon, reads "African Safari 3-D."  I will report next week on their total experience during their filming here at CCF and especially their purpose and how their film footage will be used to further the survival of the cheetah.  
Until next, this is
Ron Marks
from Cheetah Land

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The captive cheetah's health

During the previous week a number of our cheetahs at CCF have been observed ailing from undetermined causes.   Our cheetah keeper, Juliette reported to the director and veterinarian personnel immediately upon discovery that certain issues have occurred, requiring timely medical attention and daily observation.  At this time no cheetah appears to be at serious risk.  However, with the administration of normal medical protocol, each cheetah appears to be responding to medication.  Initial diagnosis suggests that an unknown virus might be affecting four cheetah and possible insect or snake bites are affecting two other cheetahs.  Coughing by the cheetahs having a possible virus and swelling by the cheetahs suspected of insect or snake bites are the readily noticeable symptoms.  Twice daily observation of these six cheetahs has been the order of the day since detection of the initial symptoms.
Last week I reported on the many and varied cheetah keeper responsibilities.  Providing constant vigilance on these cheetahs is a primary duty of the cheetah keeper.  Presently, Dr Marker, Juliette and veterinarian staff are keeping a constant eye on these cheetahs.  There are thus far no indications of a potential epidemic.  However, CCF is preparing to handle such a situation if it does become such.  Because these two situations continue to be of concern, and since symptoms have not yet subsided, I will report next week on the prognosis and health of these cheetahs.
Until next, this is
Ron Marks
from Cheetah Land

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Routine of a Cheetah Keeper

Greetings again from Namibia, Cheetah capital of the world.  I last posted three weeks ago.  Sorry for the absence.  Hopefully I'll be resuming weekly postings of my saga at CCF beginning today.

During my volunteer stint here I have had the pleasure of observing and assisting past and present cheetah keepers.  Remarkably these dedicated personnel place the safety and quality of the cheetah's life at levels comparable to their own.  I am greatly impressed with the sacrifices these ambitious conservationist make every day.  Amazingly, cheetah keepers maintain a long list of daily responsibilities and accomplish each detailed task right down to filling holes created by pesky warthogs.  Their life is devoted to ensuring that these endangered species continue to survive in captivity.  Many of the cheetahs do in fact, make it back to the wild, where they are intended to resume their survival.  Whether a cheetah remains in captivity or is later released, the cheetah keepers daily care for them requires the basics such as feeding, examining pen fences, cleaning the pens, providing water and observing each cheetah to determine their continued health.  There are many other tasks that the cheetah keeper performs.  They assist in medical care either by administering medications while feeding, or assisting veterinarian personnel during exams.  They organize the transport, delivery and return of cheetahs to their pens following medical exams.  Coordinating with key support personnel is a never-ending chore that is critical to the cheetah's survival and health in captivity.  Accordingly, food preparation, vehicle availability, road and trail clearance, logistical support for water, fencing and pen maintenance never end.  The keepers are also charged with subtle tasks such as close observation of each cheetah to see if their condition remains normal.  Changes in their status, such as minor injury must be noticed immediately.  Any contact with humans must be assessed by the keeper to ensure stress to the cheetah is kept to a minimum.  Routine checks of fence lines are basically a daily job.  In the wild there are many wildlife nuisances which like to bore holes beneath fence lines or they simply like to ram the fence or jump them, sometimes unsuccessfully.  Many of their daily tasks entail organizing teams to feed, perform maintenance and repair.  Safety is always of paramount importance when caring for captive cheetahs.  Cheetah keepers tirelessly work to assure this for each cheetah charged to his/her care.  Although the cheetah is a predator and should always be recognized as such, cheetah keepers provide care and safety to cheetahs comparable to that which owners do for their domestic pets.  In their race for survival, the cheetah needs a constant ally.  The cheetah keeper is just that, the cheetahs closest ally.
Until next, this is
Ron Marks
from Cheetah Land      

Sunday, May 22, 2011

An Eventful Week at CCF-Namibia

There were three significant cheetah events which occurred this week.  Specifically, CCF rescued three new cheetah cubs and then a large male cheetah whose life was threatened by a wary farmer.  His eventual release also took place.
CCF was called by a farmer who claimed he had no choice but to shoot a female cheetah that allegedly killed a goat from his farm.  If this was the case, then naturally the mother was using the 'kill' to feed her four cubs.  Unfortunately, one cub was killed also.  After their arrival at CCF, the three cubs were thoroughly examined and placed in a quarantine pen which was prepared for them.  Estimates place the male and two female cubs at approximately 6-9 months.  I'll provide updates on their condition and plans for their future in subsequent postings.  Stay tuned.  
The male cheetah brought to CCF should turn out to be a 'win' situation.  CCF was called again by a farmer who said a cheetah had been stalking her livestock.  In no uncertain terms, she vehemently requested his removal from the vicinity of her farm 'for his own safety.'  CCF responded and brought the male cheetah to CCF.  He was thoroughly examined and kept a couple of days.  In the interim a decision was made to release the big cat.  He weighed in at 49kg upon arrival.  Accordingly, we took him to the big field beyond CCF and released him Saturday morning.  The spot of his release is far from any farms.  It is our hope that he will resume a normal life in the wild.  At the time of his capture, the farmer did not report sighting other cheetahs.  Thusly, it is probable that this male was not a member of a coalition and was doing fine living alone.  We are hopeful that releasing him in this new environment will enhance his chances for continued survival.
CCF staff encouraged both farmers that upon future cheetah sightings to please try to contact us first before taking drastic actions.

Until next, this is
Ron Marks
from Cheetah Land.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Land of Professionals

As I prepare for another exciting and challenging week at CCF-Namibia, I can't help but to reflect on the  professional staff, the student interns and the volunteers who seem to constantly pass through the gates at CCF.  My brief experience thus far has provided me with the opportunity to meet and engage many people, both CCF staff and current and future conservationist.  In just six short weeks the turn stile at the main gate has been swinging.  Two cheetah keepers have departed and now our cheetah tracker is about to transfer off to other challenges within the wild game industry.  Replacements have begun to arrive with additional ones to follow.  The various departments here all contribute toward the cheetah's survival.  The people who work with the cheetahs, the guard dogs and the goats, the tourism staff, the farm hands and the many staff members who contribute to the daily operation are all professional in what they do.  Each of their contributions play an important part in maintaining and promoting the mission at CCF.
When your stay here is an extended one you meet so many different personalities and folks from all over the world.  I have had the pleasure of working with dedicated professionals since arriving.  I have observed their activities and their work ethic.  For most this is a very serious job in a field for which they have chosen.  Caring for, learning about and teaching and educating others how man can take an active role in a unique part of conservation and preservation is experienced here every day.  The cheetah has survived until now and in fact, it's decline in numbers has been arrested over the last decade.  This is a milestone, but only the first with many new milestones lying ahead for Dr Laurie Marker and her team of professionals.  Every facet of this worldwide non-profit organization contributes to CCF's mission and the survival of the cheetah.  Beyond the staff many others visit here to be part of an arena that cares about the future of this world, it's wildlife and specifically, the cheetah.
It is such an enriching experience to see the number of interns and volunteers who are happy upon arrival and enlightened fully beyond expectation when they depart.  One can't help but to be amazed and thankful that so many others care about conservation, preservation, protecting the environment and saving endangered species.  CCF continues to be blessed with participants that believe the work here is vitally important and are here to make a significant difference.
Being here is rewarding for we see progress in the cheetah's survival.  But, we also see an energetic drive, a contagious enthusiasm, and a sustained dedication among staff and the short-term students and volunteers.  Much of this is also observed in the faces of the thousands of tourist and visitors each year to CCF.  They gain an understanding and an appreciation for the work that is done here and especially for the effort man puts forth every day to enhance the chances of the cheetah's survival.
I am glad I chose to return to CCF and have thus far had the opportunity to make a difference.  If you haven't yet, I invite you to visit  You'll feel good after you have.

Until next,
from Cheetah land,
Ron Marks

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Increased Activity at CCF Namibia

The past week and the ensuing one are a very busy time for the CCF staff in Namibia.  Firstly, during the latter half of May many student interns and a string of consecutive Earth Watch volunteer groups will descend upon CCF.  Preparations are currently being made to accommodate the influx in new cheetah supporters.  And this increase couldn't happen at a better time.  Apparently, the memorable rainy season of 2011 has finally come to an end.  At least we think it has since there has been no appreciable precipitation for over a week.
Secondly, there have been a number of cheetah movements here at CCF.  Several cheetahs have been relocated for a number of reasons.  Specifically, some have been moved recently for:  fence repair; aged cats with unique personalities have been segregated; some have been segregated for health reasons; and some have been transferred to closer facilities at the Eland camp.  A smaller number of cheetahs remain at Bellebeno.  Many of them are eligible for release back into the wild and so will remain there until Dr Marker and her CCF staff have the opportunity to evaluate their current status, health and their suitability for re-entry to the wild.  Re-entry is always a goal for CCF whenever the potential may be at hand.  This is an important decision and the cheetah's chances for sustained survival is of utmost concern.  We will stand by anxiously awaiting any decisions on which cheetahs might be released in the future.  Bear in mind though, that no cheetah will be released here or elsewhere until all agree that it's safety will not be at risk and it's ability to fend for itself in the wild is highly favorable.  Look for any news on possible releases in future postings.
Until next,
from Cheetah Land,
Ron Marks  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Maintaining CCF-Namibia

Over the past two weeks a number of interns have departed and a few more will leave us over the next couple of weeks.  Several more and the next EarthWatch groups will join us over the next three weeks.  Therefore, until more student-interns and volunteers report to CCF,  we will devote more time and effort catching  up with general maintenance, fence-mending, beautification of the grounds, and so forth.  Of course, the few interns and students remaining will be solicited for their assistance in performing these tasks.  
One of the newest ventures for CCF is the potential grooming of four young cubs to become ambassadors much like their dynamic predecessor, Chewbaaka.  Everyone who has ever been to CCF-Namibia or has been involved with CCF, know all to well the legacy Chewbaaka leaves behind.  It is hopeful that with the proper training and nurturing, one or more of the four 10-month old cubs could become Cheebaaka's successor.  I'll keep you posted on the progress of this exciting adventure.
With this I will sign off for now.  They'll be an early start tomorrow as we begin to transfer some of our female cheetahs from Bellebeno to the Elands pens at HQ.
From Cheetah Land,
Ron Marks  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Supporting one of many of CCF's Goals

During my third week at CCF-Namibia, I assisted workers in the construction of a permanent game count watch station.  The station is prefab and will be assembled after an appropriate water hole site is selected.  Once completed the watch station will have recycled material complementing its steel frame work and will rest on a concrete slab.  Some of our watch stations have been constructed with brick and mortar walls and heavy-duty corrugated aluminum roofs.  However, this watch station will consist of used bottles and mortar walls and with lids from 5-gallon size cans laid in much the same manner in which a shingle roof is.  The lids will be attached to a metal mesh.  Thus, major components of this watch station will be considered "green" and in keeping with ecosystem practices.

The current game count watch stations are used very frequently in maintaining and tracking numbers of various species that roam freely throughout the Waterburg Conservancy.  These counts, which are broken down by species, sex and age group assist CCF in realizing increases and decreases in the many different species.  When numbers do appear out of 'whack,' then questions are raised over the various possibilities for eye-opening imbalances.  In such cases game management techniques are sometimes applied in order to bring status quo numbers back into the biodiversity-ecosystem.  In most cases, however, number changes are boundariless and reflect changes in weather patterns and diseases which affect all equally.

Out first eco-watch station will be installed over the next couple of weeks.

From Cheetah Land, that's it for now.

Ron Marks
CCF-Long term Volunteer

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Getting Familiar with CCF's operation

     The second week at CCF provided me with the opportunity to work with a couple of their staff professionals, Caroline and Rob.  I assisted Caroline during a few treks to the field to conduct cheetah tracking and scat detection.  To track cheetahs pre-set cameras are checked by recovering memory cards.  Among the sixteen cameras we checked, anywhere from 171 to 934 photos were taken.  Movement within the picture field triggers the camera's sensor.  The memory card is downloaded at CCF to see if cheetahs visited the area.  Most of the cameras are set up at "cheetah play trees," which are trees easily climbed by the cheetah. Cheetahs are known to mark such trees and revisit them frequently.  Also, on differing occasions a specialized dog trained in scat detection accompanied us to the bush.  Two particular dogs, Isha, a female Anatolian Shepherd and Finn, a male Border Collie took part in these exercises.  The dogs are trained to detect the Cheetah scat and to alert the accompanying staff handler.  The dog is set up with a GPS collar in order to mark the location wherever scat is detected.  These two methods assist CCF in tracking and recording Cheetah movement and numbers in the area over long periods of time.  In so doing certain cheetah behavior can be understood.
     I also traveled throughout much of CCF's bush with Rob who is CCF's rhino tracker.  Rob is the resident rhino expert charged with the responsibility of tracking and protecting the five current rhinos living on CCF farmland.  They fall under the umbrella of CCF's overall conservancy strategy.  These are black rhinos which are endangered.  Much like Caroline and her cheetah tracking, Rob monitors pre-set cameras also at locations frequently visited by the rhinos.  The more prominent locations are in vicinities close to large water holes that are closely guarded by contiguous brush.  The black rhino is more difficult to find, since it, as opposed to the larger white rhino, prefers to stay within the protection of thicker bush lands.
     That's about it for week two at the Cheetah Conservation Fund here in Namibia.

Until next, from Cheetah Land
Ron Marks

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Have begun Adventure at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia

I arrived on April 5, 2011.  It happened to be the middle of the "boxing" season.  This means that every year at CCF all Cheetahs in captivity who require exams are brought in to the vet clinic.  I have been involved with this process since my arrival.  The cat is captured in a transporting box and returned to the clinic.  Once the exam is finished, the cat is returned to its original pen.  Most of the pens are located about 37 kilometers from HQ.  Most of the cheetahs are cooperative, but some resist vehemently.  Most pickups and returns require at least four staff/volunteers.  The difficult cats will fight being put in a box.  Getting the cats into a box requires precision timing and close coordination among the boxing team.  The process usually entails coaxing or forcing a the cheetah into the box after passing through a series of guilotines (sp).  Thus far CCF has examined over thirty cheetahs and will complete the annual affair tomorrow, 4/11.

Until next from here in "Cheetah Land,"
Ron Marks

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting ready to go

Moving from one condo to another in America is quite different from moving to a small hut half a world away.