Week 9: Practical Camp, Cheetahs, and Penguins

This week at CTEET, second year students studying conservation from Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) embarked on a week long practical camp. During the camp the students learned about the Gantouw Project, wildlife capture using a Dan-Inject dart gun, human-wildlife conflict with a baboon case study, small mammal trapping, how to use camera traps, how to use and interpret data, environmental management plans, and many other topics. I was able to sit in on a few of these presentations and it was interesting to learn about topics that I have previously been exposed to at OSU from the perspective of  another country. Conservation management can differ quite significantly in some aspects here in South Africa compared to the United States and it was good to get another perspective on how to approach this field.

Our Friday vactivity this week was a trip to a Cheetah conservation center located just outside of Cape Town in Somerset West. For me this was a bitter sweet activity. Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West is partnered with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), which was another internship I was looking at besides coming to Cape Town. And CCF is a renowned cheetah conservation group. So from that alone I was willing to go to this center in Somerset West. My concerns about going were about how the cheetahs were actually being housed and why they were being housed at Somerset West. The positive aspects about the center were that they work hard for cheetah conservation. They partake in outreach programs with ambassador cheetahs, they help with livestock guarding dog programs, and they provide some accommodations for other animals that needed to be relinquished by their owners. I was slightly disappointed with the cheetah accommodations on site. It was simply a fenced off area essentially adjacent to a residential area that I felt lacked size and variety for the cheetahs. Another complaint I have is that they do not house of accept any rescued cheetahs. Side note, I am very much in favor of protecting whole populations of animals over the interest of an individual, but when there is an opportunity to help individual animals that does not adversely harm the population it should absolutely be done.  So, you would ask where Cheetah Outreach gets their cheetahs from and the answer is they all come from captive breeding programs. Okay, that’s fine. I understand how captive breeding programs can benefit wild populations. However, not any of the cheetahs born in the captive breeding program that Cheetah Outreach gets their cheetahs from are released into the wild. And this is why I am upset that they do not accept any rescued cheetahs. I can understand that the main purpose of the Cheetah Outreach is to promote cheetah conservation through the use of ambassador animals, but if one has the ability (which in my opinion they do) to make the life of an individual cheetah better by accepting rescued wild cheetahs, cheetahs who may otherwise end up being killed, they should do so. Anyways…

The weekend wrapped up with a trip to Muizenberg Beach to enjoy the wonderful sun and warm weather followed by a trip the the penguin colony in Simon’s Town. The penguin colony is home the the African penguin which in an endangered animal that lives only on the coasts of South Africa and Namibia and is the only species of penguin found in Africa. They are almost exclusively found on islands off the coast but three colonies were created on the mainland. Two in South Africa’s Western Cape at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town and Betty’s Bay near Stony Point and one in Namibia. At the current rate of decline it is thought that the African penguin could go extinct within the next decade. Population decline can be attributed to egg poaching, oil spills, competition with fishing industry, guano harvesting for fertilizer, among others. Hopefully conservation efforts can thwart the extinction of the African penguin.

This wraps up my ninth week here in South Africa. I have two more weeks of work and a week off to finish up may stay before heading home to Corvallis.

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