With some 3,500 individuals, Namibia is home to the largest cheetah population in the world. However, spotting them in the wild – even in the national park areas – is not easy. They are very shy and well camouflaged, and even if you are lucky enough to see one, it probably won't be for more than a few seconds. Cheetahs are the world's fastest land animals after all!
The Cheetah Conservation Fund, a non-profit organisation dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild, has a research and education centre in the Waterberg area, some 3.5 hours north of Namibia's capital Windhoek. The centre provides an excellent opportunity for getting close to these fascinating animals.
This is not a petting zoo, however. A large part of the centre's work revolves around preparing cheetahs for release in the wild. Those who are not able to make it in the wild, due to medical or behavioural problems, are given a sanctuary in one of several different reserves. Visitors get the opportunity to watch them on safari drives and guided walks. There is also guest accommodation here.
If you are there at lunchtime, you can watch some of the resident cheetahs being fed.
We were told that cheetahs often lose their catch to other predators, such as jackals and hyenas. As a result, they instinctively eat very fast. To slow them down a bit – which apparently is better for them – they are fed chunks of meat containing large bones.
Namibia's cheetahs are thought to account for around half the numbers surviving in the wild world-wide. They have become extinct in a number of African countries.
You will find a lot more information about cheetahs in general and the work of the centre in particular on the Cheetah Conservation Fund's website