March 5th, 2014
I realized it is dawn from the first sunlight shines through my eyelids. I slowly opened my eyes finding him laying on my pillow facing towards me. He looked at me with his long and curved eyelash brushed up twice, and his gentle purring sound grew louder.
It is the first time I sleep with a cheetah through the night. His name is Gabriel, a cute naughty cheetah boy of six months of age. He loves to grab you with a “hug”, and he wants to challenge any cheetah that walk pass him. Despite how much of a little bully he is, everyone loves him for he has a face of an angel.
Life here as a volunteer is not only about beautiful moments like when you wake up with a cheetah lying beside you. There are times that I was holding a dead chicken with guts dangling around; times I saw millions of maggots under the animals’ leftovers when I was cleaning the enclosure; or times I have to scoop a smelly sticky poop with flies buzzing around.
However, these slightly uncomfortable feelings will soon be covered with joy that the most ordinary volunteer life here would present to you. Whether it is the blue sky filled with hornbills and propeller planes flying by, or the watching the high grass that cheetahs move about in , whether it is the feeling of a furry paw that a baby leopard placed on your hand or the mysterious long black hair on a caracal’s ear brushing past your cheek. All these scenes have filled my heart with happiness that nothing can compare. Everything is just worth it.
Half past six in the morning, Gabriel gave me a morning kiss while he was grooming his paw. A quarter past seven I grab a poop scoop and started walking in Camp 1. The morning sun sparkled on the dewdrops making the lawn a land of diamond. My feet gradually get soaked but there is a smile upon my face..
Wuyou – China
March 1st, 2014
My first couple of week at cheetah experience has been amazing, the people I have met from all around the world are so lovely and friendly, and it is amazing to learn so many different cultures. Riana and the staff are so helpful and caring, and they love the animals so much it is so nice to see them and the animals together and the special bonds they have.
I feel so privileged to help Riana with her dream and this project she is running, she is such an inspirational woman and not to mention the bond she has with the animals. I am so thankful I have had such an opportunity to do this and to do things I have always dreamed of.
The animals at cheetah experience have such individual personalities, my favorite animal would have to be the big leopard Zorro, not only is leopard my favourite animal but Zorro has such a cheeky and loving personality. I have spent loads of time with Zorro, one day I walked him and he was climbing on top of the cars trying to play with the side mirrors and also trying to go into the toilets to play with the towels. He is such a potentially strong animal but with people he is so gentle, I was sitting in his enclosure with him and he came over and sat on my lap it was so sweet, he loves a nice neck rub. Another one of my favourite animals is the 6 month old cheetah Gabriel, he is so playful you can run around with a toy snake for ages and he will just chase you. Gabriel is one of the cheetahs I got to sleep out with in the baby room, he is so cute sometimes he likes to bury his head between your neck and shoulders and just sleep there. One morning I woke up and he was laying next me with his head on my arm licking my hand was such an amazing feeling waking up to that. All the animals here are so sweet and different is very hard to pick favourites I love very animal here and I have shared a special moment with nearly every animal.
I will be very sad to leave in a week or two, and I will most definitely be back.
March 1st, 2014
I was so fortunate to look through my friend’s phone and come across some spectacular photos of him with cheetahs, leopards and caracals. The questions that followed and the answers he gave me are the sole reason I find myself thousands of miles away from home surrounded by fascinating animals and amazing people. All of whom contribute passionately to animal conservation.
My first day was a surreal blur, having not slept for a while when phrases like “cheetahs in the yard” were thrown about I couldn’t really fathom that there were multiple cheetahs casually walking around the place. Then someone asked who was walking the leopards today, in the most benign tone possible, further bewilderment. Now it’s hard not to take for granted the precious proximity we can have with these incredibly impressive animals.
Having lived on a farm all my life I got engrossed immediately with handling raw meat and getting sweaty and messy, this was far easier to get accustomed to than the casual remarks about cheetahs being literally everywhere. On my first afternoon it was a big feed for the lions, hurrying into the separate feeding camp with a whole cow leg whilst the three lions jostled and roared inches away from me. Simply an unbelievable experience, especially as I had only just stepped of the plane a couple of hours ago.
After this I was introduced to the two wolves, my guide told me to approach really slowly, slightly behind her. As I was new to the wolves she explained they might run away and as a tall male I could be perceived as a threat as they were raised by women. So approaching this regal wolf looking all the more grand as she was standing on a platform I was so transfixed that I took ages to reach her, my guide was really enthusiastic at this point, saying they normally run away and this was rare, she advised me to cautiously put my hand on the platform to let her sniff it, the wolf silently padded over and sniffed my hand, at this my guide was squeaking frantically saying that this never happened , the wolf then patted my hand with her paw, this was translated by my guide that she wanted attention or that I was permitted to touch her but before I could stroke her I realised the wolf was staring intently into my face, completely vulnerable staring into a wolf I was strangely calm, the composed aura this animal had was infectious and I wasn’t at all scared just transfixed then surprised when I was affectionately licked in the face by the wolf, my guide was clapping and congratulating me saying I had been accepted into the pack by the alpha female and that this has never happened so quickly for a male. I feel an incredible deep sense of privilege at this event and when it was told at the meeting and everyone applauded I had an ear to ear grin on my face and thought to myself ‘this will be a special month’.
Garth – ENGLAND