Student - June 7, 2012

Among the cheetahs in Namibia

Who? Marieke Reijneker, fourth-year student of Animal Management
What? Various projects for the Cheetah Conservation Fund
Where? Otjiwarongo, Namibia

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'I always dreamt of spending a longer period of time in Africa. Thanks to the collaboration between Van Hall and the Cheetah Conservation Fund, I could make my dream come true. I have not regretted my choice for a second. What a magnificent country Namibia is, and what a variety of wildlife there is here still! Every day I saw warthogs, kudus and even leopards, giraffes and zebras roaming around. The Cheetah Conservation Fund is a non-profit organization that depends entirely on fundraising and local tourism for its income. In between looking after the cheetahs, horses, goats and dogs, I worked on various projects. For example, I did research on the waterhole count, an annual count of the wild animals coming down to various waterholes, which is used to estimate the diversity of species present. I hope to get my article on the impact of rainfall on these waterhole counts published in the South African Journal of Wildlife Research.
As well as that, eight cheetahs were fed every afternoon in front of the tourists, while I gave a short talk about the animals. I also went out into the wild to follow released cheetahs using radio tracking that picks up a signal from the GPS transmitter on their collars. So my days were very varied. I really gained experience of every aspect of conservation. By African standards, Namibia is highly developed, and in some ways it could be described as a western country. People here are incredibly open and friendly. Namibia is also extremely strict about nature conservation. Nature reserves are very well protected. Local farmers set up join 'conservancies', or protected nature areas. The get funding for these from the government and they also earn something from tourism. And this policy is good for the protection of wild animals too. Many countries could learn from it.'

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