Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cheetahs, servals, caracals - This must be Africa

Greetings. We have enjoyed a great visit to the Cheetah Rehabilitation Center Zulu Nyala Game Reserve. It should be called the All-Cats Rehab Center because they had cheetahs, servals, caracals (which are also called Persian Lynx), and African wild cats (which look exactly like domesticated house cats, except they have stripes on their tails and legs and are in fact quite wild). There were quite a few different cats in various stages of care – primarily animals here are brought in by farmers who find them as abandoned babies, or by people who tried to keep them as pets and found that it didn’t work out.

Image:Serval looking back.jpg
Young serval. When fully grown these cats can weigh between 25 and 40 pounds.

We arrived at the rehab center at 4:30pm, just in time for feeding. We were greeted by a young woman named Hugonette who had four buckets of raw, plucked chicken. Our group of six was completely surprised when she gestured for us to follow her into the first enclosure which contained the serval cats. This would have never happened in the US. I mean, these cats were wild and hissing and all clammering for the chicken. Servals are about as big as a labrador retriever, but they have big teeth and large, long claws. They are beautiful though, and indeed went for the chicken and not us, so we mostly just stood around and gaped while they ate.

Next were the cheetahs. They had three, each in their own enclosure. One was a grumpy old female, so we didn't go in her cage, but we did go in with one of the males, who actually let me pet him while he was drinking a bucket of blood from Hugo's hands. It felt like an entirely BAD idea, but she encouraged me to "just give him a little stroke," and so I figured when else am I going to get THIS opportunity. I've got pictures, for those of you who don't believe it.

Adult cheetah with a big yawn.

To be released into the wild after rehab, the cats have to prove that they are ready. This means that they have to kill a live chicken that has been let into their enclosure and NOT SHARE it with the other cats. One of the servals recently passed this test and will be released soon. Apparently the cheetah that we petted catches chickens, but then just lets them go without taking a bite. He'll have to practice hard over the next few weeks in order to qualify for a return to the bush.

We also got to watch the caracals and African wild cats eat. Before she threw the chicken to the caracals, though, Hugo went into the enclosure and brought out a two-month old baby caracal. Oh my gosh, so stinkin' cute. I got to hold him, and he just went all limp and let me adore his fuzzy warmth. He did have frighteningly big paws and claws, even for a two-month old. Again, I have pictures to prove it.

Anyhow, we go to go in the pens with the cheetahs and all the other cats and give them some personal attention and watch them feed. Also we got to hold one of the baby caracals, which was pretty crazy. I got some really cool pictures. After that we came home, went back to the hotel and had a great dinner.

Tomorrow is our last day here, and then we’ll be on our way home. We haven’t decided what we are doing tomorrow, but I will call in a dispatch and let you know. Hope you all are doing well. It’s hot here, about 90°F, so as good as this is, we’re looking forward to some cooler temperatures.

Back to you soon,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice job