On World Environment Day there is a sudden escalation of environmental actions. Trees are planted, recycling started in homes and businesses. Hopefully this inspiration lasts and is translated into good daily habits. Sadly much is soon afterwards replaced by our big enemy – complacency.
In our office every day is devoted to the environment, as everyone’s should be, if mankind and the species that we are responsible for are to survive. Our team works full time, pursuing this dream that people are inspired and changed by what they read, leading to transformed lives and a consciousness that includes more than your own narrow band of interests. This is all done pro bono, driven by passion, compassion, intelligence and vision.
Hence we decided this World Environment Day to treat us worker bees to an eco adventure to feed the soul and remind us all why we plug away regardless of the difficulties. Close to home we found the Cheetah Outreach, where cheetah cubs are hand-reared to serve as ambassadors to educate our world about their plight.
100 years to reduce cheetahs from 100,000 to 7,500
It took 4 million years of evolution for the cheetah to become the exceptional animal it is today and only 100 years for man to place it on the critically endangered list. Now the fastest land animal in the world is losing its most important race: the race for survival.
At the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 100,000 cheetahs lived throughout Africa and in parts of the Middle East and Central Asia. Today there are just 7,500 cheetahs left and South Africa is home to fewer than 1,000 of these majestic cats.
As timid and non-aggressive animals they are ideally adapted to running fast – not to hunt, but to run away from their enemies! They don’t like to fight due to blunt teeth and claws and a weak and underdeveloped jaw. Hence the small head, which makes them more aerodynamic. So other predators are threats to them and they live off smaller animals. Yet they perish together with the leopards when hunting on farmlands, where 500 of our last cheetahs still roam today.
This is where the majestic Anatolian Shepherd dogs come in, which are bread at the Cheetah Outreach. Originally hailing from Turkey, these puppies are sold to farmers who have to sign surety that they will no longer trap or shoot predators on their farm. Pups are placed with livestock and immediately bond with the herd, protecting them for life.
Getting up close and personal
Cheetah Outreach was founded by Annie Beckhelling in January 1997 with just one hectare of land provided by Spier Wine Estate and two cheetahs. Today on the beautiful Paardevlei land outside Somerset West there are 6 ambassador cheetahs and various smaller carnivores, like serval cats and a caracal, to raise awareness of their plight on South African farms and to highlight the Anatolian Guarding Dog Programme.
They are involved in environmental education, offering curriculum-linked school presentations and resources as well as workshops and fellowships for teachers.
Amongst intermittent rain, hail and beautiful sunshine, our new team listened to lectures, marveled at a variety of cats and got up close with a tolerant Enigma. Not what some of our animal communicators like, but this cat was resigned to us carrying their message out.
Please read more about Cheetah Outreach and support them.
By Elma Pollard