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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