When we woke on the morning of July 20th, there was excitement in the air. Through the morning, the staff worked diligently to get the place spiffed up and ready for a huge influx of friends.
The reason for the excitement…..the Cheetahs were arriving. See yesterday’s post for the blessing!!
We were originally told that they would be there by 11:00 am. But being Africa, they did NOT arrive that early!!! Around 3:00 pm Mark Haldane radioed in to say that the first plane was in the air and would be there around 3:30.
The excitement started growing and by 3:15 there was a large contingent of people waiting for the big event…..
The first plane buzzed the airstrip (fairly low I might add) and then made a circle and landed…..
Then the fun began as they landed and parked the other two planes and two helicopters that were ferrying both Cheetahs and people to the camp…..
I was reminded of watching the parking crew direct traffic at the Oconee Fall Festival!!!
The human passengers started emerging from the plane….first came the “dignitaries”….Mary Cabela and her son Dan, followed by Mark Haldane. Then came the support people….veterinarians, photographers, writers, camera crews, and who knows who else!!!
There were several interviews going on for the film crews and of course, Chief Tozo had to get into the fray as well…….
Once all of the animals were on the ground it was time to get them to the bouma (a specially constructed pen to hold the animals for several weeks of acclimation).
The crates were carefully removed from the plane…..
….loaded on the trucks…..
…and the people piled in, filling every empty slot……
….and off we went!!
There was even a drone in the air following our progress!!!
We were riding in a truck that had two cats in the back. One of them was quite upset and kept growling and scratching her claws along the bottom of the crate floor. It was an eerie sound!!
When we arrived at the bomas there was a LOT of milling about and discussions about which animals were going in which pen!!
Michael enjoyed getting into the act by carrying one of the crates into the boma…..
The first Cheetah was carried into the pen…..
….and released by Chief Tozo….
I stood outside the fence to watch the release.
But then when the next set were released, Mark said that any of us could come into the boma as long as we were quiet. Oh my….I get to be IN the pen with the Cheetahs!!!!
Mary and Dan released the next two….two BIG males. They were so muscular and amazing to watch.
In the next boma, four siblings were released at the same time. These guys BLEW out of the crates and started circling the pen. As you will see in the video, one of them ran headlong into the boma fence but, fortunately, wasn’t hurt!!!
As they circled back to the gate-side of the pen, we were told to “GET OUT FAST”…..they did NOT have to tell me twice!!! It was interesting to watch the guys as they put themselves in between the Cheetahs and the gate. They were determined that the cats were going to stay inside of the boma!!!
The last three were a bit more placid but still growled as they fled the crate. That growl made the hair stick up at the back of my neck!!!!
We quickly left the newcomers to explore their new surroundings and joined the party that was already in progress in camp!!!
On the day before we left, we rode back over to the boma to check on them and got a momentary glance at one of them…..
….before he laid down in the shade of the tree…..
They all look pretty content and I expect that soon they will be released into the wilds of Coutada 11. I can’t wait to hear about their lives in future years!!!
It was a privilege to be a part of this historic day…..the day that Cheetahs were returned to the Marromeu Complex of Africa!!!