Meeting Samira the Cheetah

It was in my second week at N/a'an ku sê that I had the luxury of meeting Samira. During one of our research tasks, we had to take paw-prints from Samira so that they could be put on the sanctuary's database. Each cat leaves unique paw-prints in the earth that can be used to identify them. This is great when looking at wild cheetahs, but to test the new technology, the sanctuary was taking tracks from the local cheetahs.

Samira is one of the sanctuary's oldest residents. She was around 12 years old when I met her, which is old for a cheetah. Poor Samira lived most of her life as a pet and was fed dog food. Only a few years ago, she was finally rescued and taken to N/a'an ku sê where she could eat proper meat and live a life as wild as she can ever have, in a large enclosure.

Because Samira has lived most of her life around humans, she has no fear of them and loves the attention. As a result, it's fine to stroke and brush her, as long as someone who she has met before is with you.

Despite being used to and friendly with humans, Samira is still a cheetah - a wild animal - and so there are precautions we always must take when around her. We were told that we could not bend down or crouch, as when you are a similar size or smaller than the animal, they are more likely to attack. Furthermore, we were told that we could never turn our backs on her as again, she could take advantage. Sunglasses are also forbidden when around the wild animals, including when we go on the carnivore feed, as the animals think that the sunglasses are your eyes and become nervous. Aggressive behaviour is more likely to take place when an animal is fearful.

Other than that, we could stroke and brush her as we pleased. Samira was loving it. Her loud, rattling purr reminded me of my kitties back home.

Fun fact - a cat can either roar or purr; they can't do both. Cheetahs can purr so therefore they cannot roar. Bigger cats such as lions, tigers and leopards can all roar so that means they don't purr.

To get Samira to leave good paw-prints for us to take photos and measurements, we had to rake the sand. That was easy. Th harder part was getting Samira to walk across the raked sand and leave good tracks. Our guide knew just how to do that. He got out a juicy chunk of meat. Samira's eyes lit up at and instant and she followed our guide as he walked alongside the raked sand with the meat. Samira followed.

This had to be repeated two or three times until she finally left some clear tracks that we could work with. Job done, it was time to leave Samira with a nice, big bowl of meat.

It was a pleasure to meet Samira. One thing I can say is that she sure loves being brushed!

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