On our last drive back from Johannesburg, we went via a different route and per chance saw the Daniell Cheetah Breeding Farm (a non profit organisation), which is approximately 90 kilometres from home – can’t believe we haven’t heard about it before. We promised ourselves we would definitely pay them a visit just as soon as we could.
As luck would have it, we were able to go just the other day.
What a fabulous experience. Now, I am not one for animals in cages but do believe there is a place for it and Daniell Cheetah Farm is just one of those places. The aim of the Daniell Cheetah “Project” as they call it, is to play a part in the conservation of the Cheetah, the re-establishment of pure gene lines, as well as educating people on the importance of conserving the cheetah. Besides knowing the cheetah is the fastest land animal, we learnt that the cheetah is quite vulnerable out in the wild – who knew! They are the only big cat who purrs and interestingly they can’t retract their claws entirely and their whiskers curl forward allowing them to touch their preys face enabling them to sense when their prey is dead.
As you all know, I am somewhat fanatical about cats and jumped at the opportunity to interact with the wild cousins of our fur babies and was allowed into an enclosure with two serval sisters. The one was very playful and relaxed while the other sister was a little on edge to have two strangers in her space. The serval has a fairly short tail which allows it to jump 3 meters in hight – a longer tail would inhibit it’s jumping and servals have the longest legs of any cat, relative to their body size.
Being able to stand next the second biggest cat in the wild, the lion and hear it “grunt” is incredible! They make the most amazing sound which seems to come from the pit of the stomachs. I think they call it woofing – a very deep sound which seems to make their bellies contract while they almost purse their mouths and point their noses slightly up in the air. Their coats felt as wirey as I had imagined and the two 9 month old brothers had just started growing their manes and believe they will nearly triple in size by the time they are fully grown.
The leopards were not interested in acknowledging our presence and were quite happy snoozing on top of their wooden pillars.
Trying to get a photograph of a meerkat is quite a challenge. They are such busy, almost hyper active little things who don’t stop for a second! These family orientated foraging guys can look directly into the sunlight and can close their ears keeping sand out while they burrow. I never realised just how small they are either; they weigh no more than 730 grams.
There are also black footed cats at the farm but alas I was unable to get a photo to share with you. They are nocturnal felines and I guess would be no bigger than your average domestic cat and would say they resemble a tabby cat with spotted fur with stripes on the legs.