The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal, with an acceleration of 0 to 80 km/h in just 3 seconds (this equals the Formula 1 Ferrari, ’99!). With a top speed of 120 km/h, each stride is between 7 to 8 metres. And this weekend I had the chance to get up close and personal with a magnificent adult cheetah at the Cheetah Outreach.
Located outside central Cape Town, in Somerset West, Cheetah Outreach is a community-based programme that creates awareness surrounding the plight of cheetahs: there are approximately 6,600 left in existence in the world, and this programme campaigns for their survival. The entrance fee is just R5, and there are a few other animals you can observe and meet at the sanctuary, such as caracals, jackals, meerkats, servals and foxes.
The volunteers are friendly and give you a detailed update about everything you need to know: from their existence and survival rate to how to interact with them in the friendliest possible manner. There’s an additional fee to experience a one-on-one encounter with the animals, and the experience is truly priceless.
I got to meet Ebony, an adult male cheetah, who was purring and in quite a jolly mood. He weighed more than I do (ha!) and his streamlined body was just a spectacle. Large hind paws, a slim figure, and he (along with the others) has a clear view of his surroundings of up to 5 km away. The volunteers joked and said sometimes they don’t even know what caught the cheetah’s attention, because they can’t see anything located toward the direction it’s fixated in.
The cubs, which were actually tall (I assumed that they were adults when I saw them), are playful and cute. They make a small chirping sound which was so adorable. Because they view anything lower than their own eye level as a toy, children are not allowed in the one-on-one encounters with the cubs.
After petting Ebony for a while, we got to see a baby caracal, jackals, servals and meerkats. I was in complete awe of their beauty. It was around their feeding time so they were all a bit impatient; pacing up and down and looking for the volunteers with food bowls. The animals at the sanctuary seemed unfazed by the presence of humans… So all my attempts at trying to get their attention with small noises (innocent catcalls 🙂 ) were in vain.
If you’re around Somerset West or visiting Cape Town, take a drive to Cheetah Outreach. Support their cause while you get a precious opportunity to admire, and even interact with, these majestic animals.
*The featured image of this post is of the much-loved Joseph the cheetah at Cheetah Outreach, who recently passed on.