Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Moose McGregor: Namibian Legend

Say the word "Namibia" and some may recognise it's connection to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie but surprisingly, many will respond with tales of the world's best Apple Pie!

It is with a very heavy heart that we must pay tribute to the creator of that Apple Pie, Moose McGregor, who has sadly passed away. Moose moved to Solitaire over 20 years ago and started his bakery to produce a variety of sweet treats for hungry tourists stopping by the tiny town to fuel up their vehicles. His secret weapon of course was his Apple Pie, made from a secret family recipe that had been handed down to him through generations.

The unusual location and the quality of the pie soon caught the imagination of travelers; word of mouth spread and travel writers began to wax lyrical about the fabled pie and the man who created it - a big man, with a big heart and big generosity. In recent times actor Ewan Mcgregor talked about his meeting with his namesake in his book "The Long Way Down".  Moose had a copy on hand and if asked would spare no time showing you the chapter where he is featured!
Myself and my partner Kate started work for the NCCC in 2011 and loved Moose from the moment we met him. He was extremely welcoming and told us how pleased he was with having the cheetahs close by and he always did his best to send guests our way. For the next two years we of course needed to go to Solitaire several times a week to get supplies and fill up cars with fuel so we spent plenty of time at the bakery chatting with Moose and often being his tasters for new recipes- a great honor! He also made us many a delicious birthday cake for us and our volunteers and on occasion offered us left over brownie mix for us to make ourselves - for us a warm moose chocolate brownie was as good if not better than the apple pie!

Kate and I have now been based at Neuras for the past year but have still visited the NCCC with our volunteers on a weekly basis and we always made sure we visited the bakery to introduce our Neuras volunteers to the apple pie and say hi to Moose. Always a larger than life character he always appeared to enjoy our visits especially if our volunteers were of the female variety as he made no secret he was looking for a new wife!
Our first trip back to Solitaire after hearing the sad news was difficult. The whole town felt different, with his friends and colleagues clearly affected by his absence. For me and Kate it will never be the same, but we will always be grateful we met the man behind the legend and could call him a friend. RIP Moose, we and the rest of Namibia will miss you. 
By Matt Cleverley

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Laura's New Bling!

All of us involved with the NCCC would like to say a huge THANK YOU to those of you who not only made it through our Gangnam Style video but then decided to donated money to provide our beautiful Laura with a new radio collar. In fact with the funds raised we were also able to purchase a new collar for Spartacus whose collar had died. 

Laura had previously been fitted with a very large collar (the only one available upon her arrival at the NCCC), which despite not causing her any major discomfort was not ideal. 

N/a'an ku se's director Dr Rudie van Vuuren and Head of Research Florian Wiese came to the NCCC and performed the darting procedures on both cats. The cats were only kept under a very light anesthesia in order for us to quickly exchange collars.

Both collars work extremely well; it is now so nice to see Laura and often not notice that she is even wearing a collar. Cara is very relieved to be able to know exactly where Spartacus is at all times again!

We strive to make sure our cheetahs have the best possible life, we feed them a proper diet, run them for exercise and provide them with enrichment items. To achieve this the collars are vital as they enable us to find the cats quickly, allowing us the time to look after them to this high standard. So again, to all of you who donated thank you very VERY much!!!!

Monday, 3 June 2013

New Faces!

The NCCC has welcomed some new faces over the last couple of months, some furry and some not so furry! First we are pleased to announce the arrival of Cara Esterhuizen, who joined the NCCC last month and has taken over the Cheetah safari drives and daily husbandry of the cheetahs. Cara has  lots of carnivore experience from her time with De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre in South Africa and Hammerstein Lodge in Namibia; therefore Kate and I were very relieved when she took the job!

Kate and I are still very much involved with the NCCC but we will now be based at N/a'an ku se's Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate which is just an hours drive further south. This is where the volunteer program will now be based; volunteers will still help with the research and wild carnivore tracking as well as visiting the NCCC to feed the cats and check the camera traps. 

We have also recently welcomed two new cheetahs to the camp to act as ambassadors.  Three year old males Teddy and Ayla were both orphaned when around six months of age. They arrived at N/a'an ku se's Wildlife Sanctuary at the same time and placed together. So although they are not related they have bonded like brothers and are inseparable.
Since their arrival they have caused a bit of trouble amongst the ladies; clearly the presence of three beautiful females has been very exciting to the young males but they have a long way to go if their aim is to impress. This is because their tactic is to charge up to them and begin fighting, you could compare it to little boys in the playground pulling the girls' hair! They are the ones who also come out second best and end up with scratches and cuts whilst the girls remain unscathed and unamused. 

The mischievous youngsters are perfect ambassador cats however and are very relaxed around the tourists and have a natural ability to pose beautifully for photos.

Apologies for the lack of blog action recently, the changes have kept us pretty busy but now everyone is settled normal service shall resume and Cara will also update you all on developments here at the NCCC. The next blog will be coming very soon and will contain the exciting results of my Gangnam Style efforts!   Matt

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Volunteering at the NCCC

Here is a great video about their time with us here at the NCCC made by two of our former volunteers; Noelle van Thujil and Max Rachmat.

Thanks guys!!

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: