Twenty years strong now, Cheetah Outreach (now at Paardevlei as opposed to their original Spier stomping grounds) continues their mission to raise awareness around, and campaign for, the survival of the free ranging Southern African cheetah.
They do this through a broad range of projects, like funding and coordinating a South African Cheetah Anatolian Shepherd Guard dog project, delivering natural science and literacy resources embracing environmental education into less advantaged schools, sponsoring teacher training workshops, supporting range research of free-ranging cheetah, and finally financing curriculum-linked school outreach trips and Bus 2 Us on site education visits.
They have a large number of hand-reared, captive born cheetahs which they use as ambassadors – acting essentially as representatives of the endangered free-ranging cheetah, which then provides the public with the opportunity to see, learn about, and then meet this majestic and fascinating species face to face.
The girls and I ambled into Cheetah Outreach one late afternoon last month, and spent some time walking around all the enclosures to take in the collection of bat eared foxes, black backed jackals, servals, caracals, meerkats, and Anatolian shepherd dogs, before heading up the amusingly named Cat Scan viewing deck to watch a couple of tourists being guided through their animal encounter session with the cheetahs.
The girls were of course totally enamoured by the two furry cheetah cubs pacing around (as well as the feeding of the bat eared foxes), though as per usual, annoyingly they found the stuffed toys of the curio shop by far the most interesting bit of all!
I was surprised to encounter Cheetah Outreach’s very unusual stance of essentially allowing you into their grounds for basically free (I paid R15 for all three of us to walk around!), meaning that if you just want to show your kids what a cheetah looks like (and go on a quick guided tour), it’s not going to cost you any real money.
Animal encounters is of course where the the actual money making happens, and there are a number of different encounters, walks and runs available to choose from.
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Animal sanctuaries/education centers that offer encounters are as always a contentious issue for a lot of people, but if you have kids like I do then undoubtedly you will appreciate the fact that they exist – teaching a child about something standing right in front of them is always going to be better than trying to explain off a printed page or some animated screen.
P.S. The lovely body of water that is the Paardevlei is currently completely dried up. So much so that there are now buck grazing where once there were flocks of flamingos!
Related Link: Cheetah Outreach