Monday, 29 May 2017

The loss of a legendary cheetah - Byron the ambassador

Our team is posting this with a very heavy heart. On Thursday 25th May 2017 our beautiful first ambassador, Byron, passed away. This was just 5 days shy of his 15th birthday, which was a very good age for a cheetah. 

Byron and the education team have touched so many hearts from the inception of the education program in 2003. The education team was headed up by Marilyn Hull, who was also Byron's primary handler and trainer.
Marilyn and Byron at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre

From rural schools in Atherstone, underprivileged schools in Ga-Rankuwa, Soweto, Shoshanguve, Mabopane and Diepsloot, right through to beautiful hotels and elevators - Byron had seen it all. With a strong emphasis on encouraging the school kids and delegates to do their bit in ensuring a healthier environment for all species, Byron and the education team have visited about 90 000 people through the years. Many of the youngsters in rural communities would never have been exposed to wildlife without this opportunity, and the true success of the education program was evident when learners from these schools went on to study nature conservation and pursue a career in this field.
Kids in Ga-Rankuwa made it clear to education team how much they loved Byron

Burn victims, junior honorary rangers, children and adults with disabilities,celebrities, school children and delegates at specialised corporate talks were all privileged enough to meet this beautiful ambassador cheetah. They will all agree - when you have seen this phenomenal animal in person, heard him purr and looked into his large soulful eyes, you cannot ignore the plight of cheetahs or turn your back on your responsibility to be a custodian for the environment.

Junior honorary rangers with a young Byron 

Eco-Access meet Byron at the center's education facility - Reach for the Wild

Mr. South Africa meets Byron at the Ann van Dyk cheetah Centre

Byron not only touched the lives of the children and adults that have met him through the years, but also crept deep into the hearts of all the staff involved with the centre and particularly, the education team. 
Amos Letsoalo, Marilyn Hull and Byron at a school in Soweto
Amos, Marilyn and Byron in Ga-Rankuwa
Rita Groenewald, Marilyn Hull and Byron in Ga-Rankuwa

Gaby Carse with Byron on a sleep-over
When travelling far from the centre, Byron and the team would overnight in accommodation, and this handsome cheetah would make himself extremely comfortable in any situation.
Monique Burger with Byron on a sleep-over

Gaby, Byron and Bryan Habana
Through the years, many celebrities assisted the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in creating awareness about the plight of the cheetah. Byron and the team featured in many newspaper articles and television shows. Byron even had his own episode on a show featured on Animal Planet titled "Byron the Cheetah Teacher" highlighting his work in rural schools.
Monique, Marilyn and Byron meet Clare Vale - a famous lady in the Motorsport industry who assists us with fundraising 

Ann van Dyk, Marilyn, Gaby and Byron meet well know environmental journalist Errol Felix

Gaby, Marilyn and Byron on the late night show
The entire team at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre already miss him immensely, but honor him by continuing the work that he and Marilyn started all those years ago. Yeats is our current school going ambassador who joins the team in making appearances at schools all around Gauteng and North-West.
Yeats and the team at a school in Attridgeville

The centre recently proudly made the decision to cease any wild animal interaction. This was a big decision for Management as we have offered this for a substantial period of time, but our conservation goals and efforts are the most important tasks we have. We have previously supported limited interaction under strict protocols as we believed that this interaction created an interest and awareness in cheetahs and conservation in general, however our current thinking that this interaction is not in the best interest of our cheetahs. The press has recently been full of harmful reports about sad, tragic and recently a fatal injury associated with wild animal interaction. We, as a Centre, always have and always will support what is in the best interest of the cheetahs. We still offer a cheetah appearance where our ambassador cheetah will visit your school, and learners will be able to view a cheetah, see many adaptations that allow them to run phenomenal speeds, hear him purr and see those large gorgeous eyes.

Till our next blog!

Education team
+12 504 9906