Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Whatever the future holds.....

I have been working on this blog entry for quite a while as its been very difficult to know exactly what to say, and I have delayed posting until now because my Gangnam Style attempt put a smile on some people's faces it seems and sadly I have to report bad news.

"Whatever the future holds"..... I wrote those words in a previous blog entry after describing how proud we were of Betty’s progress. However, the future held another devastatingly cruel blow because in early October Betty strayed too close to a livestock farming area and was shot and killed by a farmer.

In the immediate aftermath it was hard to think positively, but we have to remember our mission to provide as many cats as we can the chance to live their lives in the wild and we gave Annie and Betty theirs. In her 7 months of freedom Betty hunted, interacted with other cheetahs and before her man inflicted death, proved she could survive as a wild cheetah. In our eyes she was a huge success and it breaks our hearts that her life has been cut short in the way it has. We are still coming to terms with her loss and there is not much to add other than despite how difficult it may be we are determined to improve relationships with such farmers and educate them about living with carnivores or at the very least persuade them to first call us for help before reaching for the gun.

As a way of celebrating Annie and Betty’s lives what follows are some of the best moments we,  volunteers and our guests had in their company. These beautiful sisters will always have a special place in our hearts.

                                           Annie and Betty

A New Home:
Annie and Betty were released into the NCCC’s 500ha soft-release enclosure on the 27th of June 2011. Marking the start of the NCCC and a moment captured for the series finale of the Animal Planet documentary series “Wild Animal Orphans”.

 Tourists who signed up for our cheetah tracking safari took many amazing pictures of the sisters:

  “I had the privilege of making a tour with Kate at the NCCC. I believe the names of the two females I saw were Betty and Annie. It was just the two of us and we saw three Springbok going into the direction of where Kate had found the girls with her tracking antenna. All of a sudden we saw Annie starting to chase them at full speed!  I remember Kate murmuring “Go girl, go. You can do it!" Annie tripped one of them, but the Springbok got away. Kate thinks it was her inexperience. At that time I said to Kate "This is the most extraordinary moment in my life, I can now die happily!" ” - John Lahey, Cheetah tracking safari guest.

The Release:
 “The most memorable moment of our stay has been the release of Annie and Betty aka the two sisters. These cheetahs were released on the 10th of March at the Namib Naukluft Lodge. It was simply amazing!!!” - Volunteers Charlene Hotlett and Marie van Eupen.
 The last photo of the sisters together on the Naukluft Lodge farm:

Betty's Success:
After Annie's death we followed the progress of Betty and she did amazingly well, providing us and our volunteers some unforgettable experiences:

My favourite moment at the NCCC has to be the day we took a drive out to a nearby farm to check up on Betty who was released back into the wild three months ago. After approximately half an hour tracking her using the radio signals from her collar, we found her lying under a scrubby bush, looking like she had made recently made a kill. Seeing her looking so healthy and relaxed, taking care of herself in this harsh wilderness brought a thrill to me that will be hard to beat.” - Volunteer Marion Goedhart.

"To say Betty was an incredible cheetah would be an understatement. Anyone who volunteered at the Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre would understand that Betty was a superstar among cheetahs, and her trials, tragedies, and triumphs were stuff that movies are made of. Just like any celebrity has their paparazzi’s, we volunteers happily stalked Betty as she explored her new home gaining the inexplicable joy that comes with watching a once captive animal now running free. I had the pleasure of tracking Betty this past July where we ran across her in the midst of a ‘whorl-wind romance’. Matt, my fellow volunteers, and myself found Betty sitting under a tree across the riverbed from us, and then much to our surprise, another cheetah head popped out of the tall grass. A shy young male was courting our lovely Betty, and we could not have been more excited. We sat and watched the romance unfold with an hour of steamy looks, coy flirtation (and many excited whispers on our part) before we left the lovebirds by themselves. There aren’t nearly enough words to explain the excitement we all felt on that day and how we couldn’t stop telling ourselves and everyone else that Betty had a BF! The loss of Betty is truly a tragedy. She will leave a hole in a good many hearts, and she certainly will be missed in Solitaire. Betty, thank you for the joy you brought all of us. Now I hope that you will run free forever." - Volunteer Kellie Laity

The day I tracked Betty and saw her hunt a young Oryx right in front of me will stay with me forever. Despite how painful loosing her is I will always remember that Betty had the opportunity to do what cheetahs are born to do.

Never to be forgotten:
This photo of Annie taken by one of the very first tourists to go on a cheetah tracking safari became the inspiration for our logo:

Former student intern Laura Eikendal chose this photo of Annie and Betty as the inspiration to make our donation box which she recently sent out to us and now has pride of place in the Guest Farm’s reception:

1 comment:

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