Thursday, 28 June 2012

Byron the cheetah's educational adventures...

Byron at a rural school
Byron has to be one of the most charismatic cheetahs around. He has touched the lives of thousands of learners for the past nine years traveling to various communities and educating them about conservation, and how amazing cheetahs are.
Even as a cub he knew how to relax in style...
And relaxing as a adult came just as naturally!

There was always time to "play"

To travel into the variety of circumstances that Byron does, requires a bold attitude, as well as patience. One can never create such an "ambassador" cheetah, it all depends on whether they have the correct personality or not. Byron was hand-reared, and this is one of the reasons he is able to be around learners and enjoy the company of his handlers. Hand-rearing a cheetah is however not the only factor involved. At the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, cubs are always left with their moms where-ever possible, but in some instances cubs have to be hand-reared if there are new moms that don't look after the cubs, or when there are medical reasons. Some of the cubs that have been hand-reared in the past have not been very friendly, let alone be able to be trained as an ambassador cheetah, which is what makes Byron's laid back personality all the more phenomenal.
Byron meeting Clare Vale, famous lady V8 racing driver and supporter of The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre

 The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, and CHEETA are passionate about education, so that learners and adults can learn more about why they should conserve our environment. After giving an informative presentation about cheetahs and the environment, Byron comes into the venue under controlled circumstances, and learners can see a REAL cheetah with a larger than life personality. If the conditions allow for it, some of the learners are able to come up and stroke him while he lies on a table...and PURRS! That is possibly the most rewarding part of working in this environmental education programme, not only are the children adorable, and falling in love with the cheetah in their school hall, but Byron is content, and enjoying the attention.

Byron, along with our education team, often have to travel to destinations that are far away from the farm in Hartbeespoortdam. If we have to travel very far, it is better to stay overnight so that the traveling time is kept to a minimum in one day. One such example would be when Byron visited a few schools in the All Days area in 2008. As a result, he has become very used to staying in lodges and guest houses, and we would like to share some of these photographs with you. 
"Interesting...but where is the food?"
Bath time for Byron

"How did they fit all those people in that little box?"
I really am a handsome cheetah!

Baby Byron admires himself - "mirror mirror on the wall, who is the cutest cheetah of them all"
Still looking good!

Byron and his teddy checking having a good look outside

Beauty rest - guess that's why he is so gorgeous

Marilyn, his main handler through the years, giving him a well earned cuddle

Spoilt? Never!

Checking on the menu

"Could I have one of these in my camp, please..?"

"Bad Hair day - no pictures please!"

Chilling on the deck-chair

Admiring the pool...from a distance

A room with a view!

"Anything interesting out there?"

This superstar cheetah will definitely be the topic of a few more posts, but for now I thought it would be a good way to start off by introducing him to you by sharing some of his fun pictures from his travels.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Yebo Gogga 2012

Learners at our stand at Wits' "Yebo Gogga" learning about conservation
The education team has been very busy this year, and has also attended a few educational expo's. We were fortunate to have attended the Yebo Gogga Expo at Wits University this year, and saw a great number of learners.

Jedi the Anatolian Guard dog with the Yebo Gogga Mascot - a park town prawn..
The ages of the learners ranged from grade 1 - grade 12, and we were able to convey the message about our Cheetah centre, challenges for wildlife in South Africa, as well as explain the need for the Anatolian Guard dog in South Africa. Jedi, our Anatolian Guard dog Ambassador from the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, had a great time, and also visited a few of the other exhibits during the course of the week. (he also napped here and there during quiet times...)
Jedi greeting a taxidermied wild dog at the JHB zoo exhibit
Jedi wonders if these saber tooths are still found today as he looks on at the paleantology display

Working anatolian with sheep
Anatolians are amazing dogs that grow up with livestock from a very early age, and are placed with either sheep, goats or cows. They grow up with these animals on farms, and protect them at all costs against predators such as jackals, caracals, cheetahs, even leopards and babboons. The reason The Ann van Dyk cheetah Centre promotes the use of these dogs, and contributes towards the breeding of these anatolion pups, is that if farmers have these dogs on their farms, they can live harmoniously with predators such as cheetahs. We often see severe injuries from traps, or cheetahs that have been shot because they are destroying farmers' livihood by killing livestock. These dogs are great!

An anatolian with goats

Jedi is a very sweet ambassador for this dog breed. He spent a great deal of time with humans while he was a pup, and his instincts tell him he must protect humans, particularly the "baby humans". He is very tolerant with children, and often allows many of them to cuddle him while we spread the word about the great job anatolians are doing in South Africa and Namibia to protect livestock, and therefore also protect cheetahs.

Rita educating while Jedi cuddles

Jedi was at Yebo Gogga for most of the week from 16-18 May this year. On the weekend, Byron our ambassador cheetah visited the adults and children that were present in the auditorium for the presentation that was given.

Jedi soaking up more cuddles - he was a real celebrity!
Jedi catching up on his beauty sleep

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

New at blogging - lots to share

Cheetah Challenge Participants

This blog will be a way for our education team to share some of the amazing moments we have, both at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, and all over the country as we travel with our ambassador animals.

Background about CHEETA...

Jedi the Anatolian Guard dog ambassador
The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre (formerly De Wildt) has run an Education Outreach Programme since 2003 under the auspices of the De Wildt Cheetah Trust. The objective has been to visit disadvantaged communities with an Ambassador Cheetah and to educate children and young adults about the need to take care of Animals and the Environment.  The Programme consists of various talks at different levels, supported by PowerPoint presentations, experiential learning exercises, and several learning aids in the form of posters and work sheets. There is a workbook for teachers, which encourages them to use the lessons learned as the basis of other learning in the school curriculum - and also results in a more optimistic outlook amongst the teachers.  To date over 50 000 children have benefited from the programme.

Learners have experienced this learning at the Cheetah Centre and also at their schools. Byron, the Ambassador Cheetah has also been used as an enabler for creating awareness amongst corporates for funding of the Education Programme and for needy schools who urgently require computers and other resources.

Last year it was decided to form a specific Education Trust (CHEETA) and to look at making the Programmes and learning outcomes more sustainable for children in disadvantaged communities.

The idea is to use the Cheetah as a symbol of survival and sustainability and to teach young people about overcoming challenges and being catalysts in their communities for the preservation of natural resources and the improvement of their own lives. 

Background about Ann van Dyk...


The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre

celebrates its 40th anniversary


The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre
The Centre was established in South Africa in 1971, in the past known as the De Wildt Cheetah Centre it has recently been changed to The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre as a tribute to the woman who has devoted her life to the survival of the cheetah species.

To ensure the long term survival of the Cheetah, African Wild Dog and other wild animals in general.


  • To breed rare and endangered species (which includes the cheetah and African wild dog).
  • To support scientific investigations into all aspects of these species.
  • To promote public awareness - particularly amongst the younger generation - of the pressing need for wildlife preservation: to afford visitors to the Centre of the opportunity of viewing endangered species such as the cheetah and African wild dog, in natural surroundings and at close quarters.
  • To continue to play a role in conservation biology by helping to maintain adequate gene pools of rare and endangered species.
  • To generate income to support existing and future breeding projects at the Centre.
  • Where feasible, to re-establish endangered wildlife species into areas where they once occurred naturally.
Today the Centre can look back with satisfaction on a job well done in ensuring the survival of Acinonyx jubatus - the cheetah, successfully breeding the king cheetah in captivity for the first time in the world. While the cheetah breeding project was the base from which Ann launched her conservation ethic, it soon widened to include other endangered animal species, such as the African wild dog, brown hyaena, servals, suni antelope, and riverine rabbits.  Many of these projects such as the suni antelope and riverine rabbits once successfully running have been handed over to other institutions to continue with.

The Centre does not receive any government funding and income generated from tours and the adoption programme is used to subsidise our conservation projects.

Learn more about the breeding project and the conservation projects at the Centre - order a copy of the book 'Cheetahs of De Wildt' written by Founder and Director Ann van Dyk

Byron the ambassador cheetah visiting a school in Ga-Rankuwa

I look forward to keeping you up to date about some of the latest visits we have had, and exciting news as time goes by.

Rita Groenewald
Tel: +27 12 504 9906