Ever make a spontaneous decision and end up petting a cheetah? I hadn't either until one glorious day in Cape Town. In the morning I met some new friends at the breakfast table and joined on their hike up Table Mountain. At the top we were enjoying a well-deserved snack and some one asked if anyone wanted to go see the cheetahs. Of course, we all said yes. Now, how to get to Sommerset West? We serendipitously found a van taxi waiting on the mountain willing to make the hour long drive, wait for us and bring us back into town.Cheetah Outreach is an organization that is working to preserve the cheetah in the wild. We took a tour where we learned about their initiative with Anatolian Shepherds. Many farmers use traps, poison and hunting techniques to keep the cheetahs away from their farms. As a result, the cheetah population is dwindling. The cheetah outreach program gifts the farmers with an anatolian shepherd and covers their food and medical bills for one year. At the end of the year, the farmers are given the option to adopt the shepherd.Why are they giving farmers dogs to save cheetahs? Anatolian shepherds are bigger than cheetahs and form great bonds with livestock. The cheetahs are intimidated by the dogs and stay away. Everyone wins; the dogs are happy to be spending time with the herd of cows, goats or whatever, the farmers get to keep their livestock and the cheetahs aren't being trapped or poached. They have many different kinds of cats at the facility that have been rescued and rehabilitated, but for me none were as majestic as the cheetah. That's when I met Joseph, a 13 year-old cheetah who the program uses as part of their education program.
We were given very specific instructions on how to approach Joseph and how to pet him so as not to startle him or start a tickle fight. As I pet Joseph, he purred and my heart melted. It was one of the most outrageous experiences I've ever had.
If you're going to be in Cape Town, trust me when I tell you it is worth the drive to Sommerset West. They are doing great work out there and you'll be able to experience the magic for yourself.
I still can't get over the purring.....
PS. They have cubs too