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