Friday, 6 January 2012

Children in the Wilderness

The Children in the Wilderness is an environmental and life skills educational programme that focuses on the next generation of rural decision makers. Children in the Wilderness hosts rural children from all over Southern Africa that live alongside Parks and Reserves and teaches them the importance of conservation.

As part of this programme Namibian children are invited to the Kuala Wilderness Camp (which is just down the road from the NCCC) for an educational camping experience. Kate went to Kuala to give a presentation to one group of children and demonstrated how radio telemetry works by asking the children to find hidden radio collars. The children really enjoyed the experience but for the next time we thought it would be a much more exciting experience for them if when they find the collars there was a cheetah attached to it! So the next group made the short journey here to the NCCC.

It was quite a sight seeing 6 mini-buses arriving at the Guest Farm with around 50 children and supervisors piling out. But I have to say the Children in  the Wilderness supervisors did a fantastic job of sorting the children into their groups and they were extremely well behaved.  After a quick introduction we immediately loaded the children onto the cars and took them to track the cheetahs. Upon entering the camp Kate and I took a group each with Kate heading off in the direction of Annie and Betty and my group in search of Pepper.
The children were very keen and a couple knew a lot of the questions I asked them about cheetahs. Each had a turn using the radio-telemetry equipment, and when we found Pepper sitting beautifully in the grass you could see the excitement in their faces.
On the way to find Annie and Betty we stopped on a road and I showed the group good examples of cheetah spoor and demonstrated how you can tell the difference between a left and right, front and back and how we can use that information to ID individuals and estimate their numbers.

When we approached the area Annie and Betty were in we could see Kate’s group were still in the area, when we passed them we learned that Spartacus was also in the area. Kate didn’t tell us exactly where the cats were so it was up to the children to lead the way. First we found Annie and Betty who seemed a little confused by the appearance of yet more brightly colored little people.

Spartacus’ signal was very close and as we walked of in his direction the children had an experience they will probably never forget as Spartacus jumped out of his bush and gave his very impressively display of intimidation with hisses and spits. Despite explaining to the group at the start that this was to be expected and we had nothing to fear, the sight of a mean looking 60kg Spartacus still gave them a bit of a shock! Spartacus as he always does then just sat back down and fell a sleep. He’s just a big softie really :)
Upon returning to the Guest Farm the children had lunch and Kate then did a quick presentation about the NCCC and the research we are doing. At the end Kate and I were treated to a thank you ‘chant’ from the children and they were soon on their way back to Kuala.
It was a hugely enjoyable morning and the children really seemed to have enjoyed themselves, we hope they learned a little as well. We very much look forward to welcoming more Children in the Wilderness in the future :)

Photos by Mirjam Frey

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