So....do you, like, get to touch a cheetah?
You may or may not be surprised to know that this is quite a common question asked by volunteers when they first arrive and we tell them that they will be walking with wild cheetah.
Volunteer Rachel Stevens explains in this blog why not:
So….do you, like, get to touch a cheetah?
The reason we get such great visuals of the animals of Karongwe is thanks to the tireless work that groups such as GVI have put into habituating them. In simple terms the animals see humans as neither friend nor foe; in fact they see us as nothing of import and pretty much ignore us. This takes much time and patience from the people involved but gives temps like us and the safari tourists the best possible experience. Habituation is achieved with new animals by repetitive but nonthreatening approach by vehicle, if the animal moves off it is allowed to leave in peace and not harassed by vehicles pursuing it. In the end you have animals that will, for most of the time (there are always exceptions in animal behaviour), give you the odd inquisitive look, and may even come to investigate the vehicle, but then continue their regular activities as if you were not there. This conditioning affords us experiences such as witnessing not just one rhino but a group of five adult males (collective noun: a crash) with the only recognition of our presence being one direct glance and a couple of ear flicks. It also allows GVI to study animals in as natural behaviour as possible.
As lovely as the idea is to be able to cuddle a cheetah, and certain ‘rehab’ centres actually offer this experience, in the long run domestication of these creatures is beneficial to neither humans nor animal.
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