OWING to a vehicle problem on my yearly trip around various parts of Namibia last month, we checked into Otjitutongwe Cheetah Park for one afternoon and night.
Over the years I have got intensely interested in the conservation, welfare and eventual releasing of big cats in your country.
I was in for a rude awakening! Firstly, there were three cheetahs around the proprietor’s house which we were invited to stroke.
I, personally, have a problem with this sort of captivity, but others may think its great.
To each his own.
The shocks came second and third.
The second visit was to an enclosure with at least 15, probably 16, cheetahs of both sexes in it, and because the enclosure was not really big enough for the number of cats in it, they were showing signs of stress, and the general welfare of all these animals was far from satisfactory.
The people in charge were vague as to where all these cheetahs came from, if they were on contraception so that they would not breed in this situation, and if they were doomed to live out their lives with no thoughts of preparing them to go back to the wild.
Finally, my friends and I were horrified to find a female cheetah with two very young cubs in a small enclosure right in the middle of the camp.
She was severely stressed and had nowhere to be on her own with her family, out of sight and away from human intrusion.
The cubs also looked unhappy and stressed.
It is a miracle the female had not killed the cubs because of the conditions.
No one was willing to say where they had come from.
I was very upset with the conditions all these cats were enduring, specially the female and her cubs.
Surely, it is illegal to keep a family of cats like this in captivity with no future other than a steady stream of people staring at them, and where did they come from, in the first place.
My friends and I left feeling depressed by the whole scene, and I am sure this situation needs rapid investigation by the Nature Conservancy, specially to get details of how this poor stressed female came to be penned into such a small enclosure with her two offspring, disturbed by all who passed by.
I hope, sincerely, that something can be done quickly, to investigate this situation and somehow change the plight of all these cheetahs for the better, and try to get them ready for release back to the wild.
It all has a very uncomfortable feel for anyone who has studied how these cats should be living compared with how they are having to exist, and in particular, how they were obtained.
I have always championed the work of conservation bodies in Namibia and their eagerness to get them back to the wild if at all possible.
This was a very bad experience for us.
Please try and bring this situation in front of the authorities who control welfare and conservation.
I assure you, we are not the only thinking tourists who deplore what we saw, and will not want to repeat their visit!!