Another week has passed at CCF. We had a new task assigned to us: walk the Anatolian shepherd dogs guarding the goats in the corral. This enabled us to explore the farm and get some much needed exercise. The dogs felt the same way. A new game emerged - what dogs could make it to the top of Leopard Hill? Although not very high, maybe a 200 foot climb, most of the dogs had never been to the top. The first to make it was Hediye. We shared a great view of the CCF farm.
|Peggy and Hediye on the way down from Leopard Hill|
The next day we took Kiri and Firat to the top. There were some that didn't think Firat would make it but not to be out done by Kiri, he was the third dog to become a Leopard Hill Dog! Kiri was happy to escape her brood of 11 puppies for awhile. They loved sniffing the white pole on top!
|Marc with Kiri and Firat on Leopard Hill|
The following morning, Spots made his bid. Along with Hediye (already a Leopard Hill Dog), Spots joined the esteemed ranks of a Leopard Hill Dog. The last two dogs to be inaugurated were Cheetah and Spikey. Cheetah was particularly proud as he was recovering from a tick-born disease.
|Peggy with Cheetah and Spikey on Leopard Hill|
In addition to guarding livestock, some dogs at CCF are trained to detect cheetah scat. We helped Steph one morning in continuing her training of Tiger, a springer spaniel from Australia. We hid a few pieces of cheetah scat, then Steph gave Tiger the "find it!" command. Using his acute sense of smell Tiger found the scat in no time and would sit next to it waiting for Steph's approval. He was rewarded with play toys.
|Tiger, the Scat Detection Dog|
I'm sure most of you are wondering "why on earth would you want to find cheetah poo?" There are a few reasons. First, the scat is analyzed to determine what the cheetah has been eating. This data is useful to show farmers that cheetah prefer wild prey over livestock. Secondly, DNA can now be extracted from scat and individual cheetahs identified. This is helpful in determining how many and which cheetahs are in an area.
The last couple of days we've been helping Ryan feed 35 of CCF's 50 cheetahs. This involved taking a 45-minute drive to Bellebeno Farm to feed the less habituated cheetahs. Along the way there is always the chance to see other animals such as these graceful Kudu at Eric se Pos waterhole.
Warthog families would frequently trot across the road with tails held high as "follow me" signs.
We also encountered Oryx, Giraffe, Steenbok and this handsome Black-backed jackal.
One of the cheetahs at Bellebeno is Athena. Ryan told us her fascinating story. She was brought to CCF last November along with 3 other female cheetahs after being trapped by a farmer. One of her paws was in bad shape and a toe had to be amputated. After lots of TLC by CCF vets and staff she recovered and was released on Bellebeno. Unfortunately she did not stay on CCF land and ended up on a neighboring farm where she started killing livestock. She was trapped and returned to CCF where it was determined that her teeth had gone bad (probably why she resorted to killing livestock) and that she was pregnant! She gave birth to one or two cubs at Bellebeno. Unfortunately they did not survive. A wild male cheetah broke into her pen and may have killed her cubs. She may be pregnant again. Athena is a stunning cat and we hope she can be returned to the wild one day where she and her cubs can roam free.
Last night we visited The Big Field to watch the sun set and a nearly full moon rise over the Waterberg Plateau.
|Moon Rise over the Waterberg Plateau|
An unexpected surprise waited for us. Bruce and Laurie had found a pangolin! In all our 17 trips to Africa we have never seen a pangolin. It was the one African mammal that I had most wanted to see. We raced off to Laurie and Bruce's location and there he was, a beautiful Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) also known as Temminck's Pangolin trying to hide under a bush.
He (not really sure of the gender) resembled an over grown tailed-artichoke with a wee head and beady eyes. What a prehistoric looking creature and an incredibly lucky sighting! I was overcome with emotion. What a privilege to see an amazing animal in such a beautiful location!
Here are a few more of our favorite photos:
|Rainbow and Aurora Grooming|
We'll see what surprises CCF has in store for us during our final week.
We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc