Sleepover with a Cheetah


Saturday 25th June
This morning, the 4 of us who weren't new did the feeding, water and house while the new volunteers were given an orientation. After this we were sorted into new groups. I get to be a team leader which I'm excited about. To be honest I'm pretty flattered that they trust me to do it after only 1 week as the team leaders have to teach the new volunteers how to do the chores. Particularly with feeding, there's quite a lot to remember so I'm glad they trust me to do it (even though they only had a choice of 4 people and needed 3 leaders, I'm still pleased).
We had another tour today so my group just did some cleaning before they arrived. During the tour I was in with Zena. This basically means just playing with her while the tour is going on so that's she's tired and relaxed nearer the end, and visitors can go in with her. She was in a pretty lazy mood so we mostly just cuddled her and let her do her thing. I did get to go watch the lion feeding again though - something I could watch everyday for the rest of my life and never get bored. The wild pride are fed 12 still born calves and watching them is amazing. They have an established hierarchy for who gets to eat first, and it's amazing to see them up so close.
After the tour everyone was starving and so we had lunch and then some free time. We had the afternoon mostly off. We walked around the farm a bit, particularly spending time with the servals and Caracals.
In the evening we went out for dinner. I had a great time (we are so much food). We all talked about the animals and their backgrounds, including the ones saved from canned hunting or from being kept as pets. It was so interesting, especially talking to the owners about their experiences with different people.

This was the night I got to have a sleepover with Zena, the cheetah. This was incredible! It was myself, Zena and Sandra together (2 volunteers do it at a time). Zena was amazing - she was quite tired and so just relaxed. When you sleep with Zena, you go to a separate room in the house called "the baby room."

She moved around a lot during the night. She liked to sleep against someone which was great because she kept me warm. She would also extend her legs fully so she really did take up most of the room. As soon as she was awake she would start purring, and then fall asleep again.
At one point she sat on me and was so difficult to move. I just had to wait for her to move herself. It was incredible how calm she was throughout the whole night.
She did pee in the bed which meant even less room as we had to avoid that area. She's not house trained obviously because she lives outside. She was raised as a pet and came to the sanctuary when she was 3 months. She gets too cold outside and is reliant on people still. She's very close to the owners. She had to sleep outside the other night and was not happy with anyone the next day.
I'm struggling to put into words how the night was. It didn't feel real - lots of people at home didn't think it was real. I would wake up and a cheetahs face would be right next to mine, and it wasn't scary or even slightly unnerving. You know the whole time you are completely safe. It's a level of trust in an animal that is an incredible feeling.
In the morning she was taken back to her enclosure. Another awesome part of the whole night was getting up early enough to see the sunrise. Even though it's winter here now, and the sun sets really early and we get up at 7am every day, the sun is always up. It was beautiful to see it today so I might have to get up early with my camera one day to see the lions during the sunrise.

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