Cheetah Chewed my Hair, Bottle Feeding a Baby Monkey, Freddie Mercury and Ethiopian Food

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September 20th 2018
Published: September 21st 2018
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feeding colobus monkey and vervet monkeyfeeding colobus monkey and vervet monkeyfeeding colobus monkey and vervet monkey

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
A cheetah chewed my hair!! I felt his teeth on my skull and there's cheetah slobber in my hair - I'll never wash it again! I also hand-fed a lion, bottle-fed a baby vervet monkey and been in an enclosure wth a young white lion. This wasn't some tourist trap wth drugged and mistreated animals (before you worry), this was Cheetah Rock in Zanzibar, for rescued and injured wild animals. Full of awful stories about each animal's past and near extinction, but with some hope plus the chance to get near wild animals, just use your common sense (that was a problem for most) and our tourist money pays to keep it going. * please note that as we could only take one camera into the cat enclosures, I took my Nikon and left my phone, so no pics until I get home).

As we have no solid plans until the afternoon, I suggested not setting alarms! This is a first! So I awoke naturally and used the loo, Glyn copied me and then asked, had I seen the time? It was 6.30am, so much for our lie in.

However we idled away, planning how to fit everything in
Jenny and ChakaJenny and ChakaJenny and Chaka

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
and didn't go for breakfast on the roof until after 9am.

Taking a stroll into Stone Town, looking for Freddie Mercury's childhood home, a lady in a shop told me to take her photo. Ok..... Then she asked to me photograph her business card and then gave me the card. We got lured in by fridge magnets and the art on her walls was very colourful. I looked for the cheapest thing, little wooden signs with hand paintings of animals and Zanzibar. She gave us half price because it's the morning (hmmm) and offered to paint our names on them as she is an artist. So I went for that, but she took her time preparing, then restarting; all a ploy to keep us in the shop longer but you can't fault her because it worked. I came out with two small paintings of a zebra and lion. She still hadn't finished so we decided to come back after a trip to the Post Office and Freddie's house.

There's no mistaking that we were in the tourist area as various men tried to sell us things we did not want, put us on tours or sweep us off
Glyn and Doris the colobus monkeyGlyn and Doris the colobus monkeyGlyn and Doris the colobus monkey

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
in taxis; but they weren't too persistent. We found the house which is now a small hotel with photos of Freddie outside and a brief history of his life in Zanzibar and stardom.

At 12.30 we were picked up in a people carrier and after picking up 4 silent guests, we continued epically slowly though Stone Town - moving forward a couple of metres felt like gaining a lot of ground. The main road was worse than those in the Serengeti and often we had to go on the other side of the road to avoid the larger potholes. The rain that was meant to end at midday was hammering down.

After an hour or more, we arrived and there were more tourists than I'd anticipated (max group size 37), mostly European and mostly peckerheads. We were given coconuts with straws to drink the milk and the first of a few briefings. We were not to take bags, only cameras, and ourselves. No loose clothing, shiny jewellery, sunglasses, flip flops - anything loose that an animal could steal and eat, thus harming the animal. The focus was more on keeping the animals safe, not us, although that was
glyn and lemurglyn and lemurglyn and lemur

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
also mentioned. We were also told to be quiet when with animals and most of the peckerheads (from now shall be referred to as PHs) couldn't do that and this is why they are heads of pecker.

The lady in charge, Jenny is from South Africa, her son also works there plus a variety of other staff local and not local. She is extremely passionate about rescuing wild animals, treating them with respect and educating the public on what is happening to so many species.

We started off with the first disinfecting of the day. Everyone had to step in a bowl of something to clean our feet and have our hands sprayed. This happened upon entering and leaving every enclosure. The first place was circular and we sat at the edge as Jenny brought in Chaka, the zebra. Chaka is what is known as a 'surplus animal' - how awful is that? He came from a German zoo and because he cannot give birth and is no longer young and cute, there is no more room for him as younger zebras replace him. So like so many zoo animals, he is killed. I forget why Chaka got
ploughshare tortoise, almost extinct :-(ploughshare tortoise, almost extinct :-(ploughshare tortoise, almost extinct :-(

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
rescued when so many animals don't, but we all learnt a lot from him as Jenny showed us how after three years of gaining his trust, he's not scared of humans and can be treated for ailments and interact so as not to get lonely as this causes stress. He also lives with horses and is in charge of the herd, despite being smaller. They are much stronger than horses and one kick could easily kill a human.

Jenny explained a lot of stuff, all fascinating, though sometimes hard to hear due to PHs yapping and thinking they are being subtle or maybe what they had to yap about was too important to wait until we moved on to the next animals....

Which were Bush Babies! Small primates native to Zanzibar, are endangered and incredibly cute. We sat around the edge of the enclosure, each with an elbow of pasta as the tiny furies with big eyes clambered over us. They have such delicate little feet and are unbearably cute! The rain began to get stronger and people started to huddle. It was warm rain and Jenny said not to worry, we are not made of sugar and
aslan the White lionaslan the White lionaslan the White lion

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
we will dry out. She said that they had a new primate, recently rescued from a hotel and still learning how to be an animal, so only two people could go in that enclosure, which had no rain protection: they will get soaked. The rest of the group would be next door, watching under a roof with vervet monkeys. The first to put their hands up... My hand shot up before she finished, as did Glyn's, I don't think anyone else even moved a muscle, we were so quick and to our amazement and joy, we were chosen. We had no idea what primate we were meeting and we did not care.

And so we met Doris the red Colubus monkey, who is native to Zanzibar and can never be released into the wild as she is too damaged emotionally. She gets upset when there's no human contact and cannot eat without a human being there. The staff at Cheetahs Rock aim to help her but it will be a long job. Glyn and I sat in her enclosure, getting absolutely soaked and loving every second. Stefan (who works there) put a plastic tub full of greenery and other
jenny bottle feeding Aslanjenny bottle feeding Aslanjenny bottle feeding Aslan

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
things Doris loves to eat on Glyn's lap and she sat there happily chomping away. Stefan said we could stroke her and took photos of us. It was amazing and lasted a long time. But that was not all, a baby vervet monkey that is becoming Doris' friend arrived from next door and Stefan was bottle feeding him. To my joy, he passed the dear little thing gently to me, along with the bottle with strict instructions on keeping the bottle up so no air gets in.

Talking of 'air', colobus monkeys are named as such because it's like the Swahili word for poison because they get wicked gas. When Stefan told us this, we both said "Just like Glyn/Claire" in unison.

We were with the monkeys so long, that the rain began to ease off and we didn't go into next the enclosure until the rest of the group had left. Inside was another new addition, a Puma that some idiot had tried to sell on Facebook. They didn't get any money and the Puma had been in very poor health due to being fed the wrong diet, but she's very healthy now.

The next enclosure
eating Ethiopian foodeating Ethiopian foodeating Ethiopian food

Zanzibar, Tanzania
held lemurs, dik diks, peacocks and various birds that we were given small amounts of food with which to feed them. Lemurs were gently hoping all over the people and then running up into the trees when they got bored of us.

We got to see ploughshare tortoises, the 20 they have is the 2nd largest breeding group in the world, they are so rare and between them are worth $2million USD, purely because of their rarity and super rich scum like to collect them for bragging rights. These had disappeared from a conservation area in Madagascar and were missing for over 20 years, it was pure luck (one was taken to a vet and identified) that all were rescued. They cannot be released into the wild as they will be instantly poached. Some corrupt police (or poachers in fake police uniforms) tried to steal them from Cheetah Rock, but were foiled. These tortoises have started laying eggs, but probably will be extinct by 2030.

Another species close to extinction is the striped hyena and we saw two of them next. Hyena get a bad press, so no one puts money into their conservation. There's no point releasing
feeding a lemurfeeding a lemurfeeding a lemur

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
these into the wild as they would die out after one generation as there's only 2000 in the wild and 100,000 are needed for a stable population. There was a fence between us and the hyenas as they are the land mammals with the strongest jaws and could remove our limbs with little effort, but they did look furry and friendly. So of course you get an idiot sticking his fingers in despite being told not to.

Aslan the white lion was nextdoor, he's 300 kg and absolutely beautiful with a lovely face I could trust, but no one is allowed in his enclosure anymore because he's too big and he could accidentally kill you when playing, not understanding why you don't stand up anymore. Jenny has brought him up from a cub and he even slept on her bed. OMG!

He gets fed 6 days a week, but on tourists days, the meat is chopped up for us to individually feed. This is how I ended up with a chunk of red, raw flesh in my hand, not pleasant but I got to feed it to him, right into his mouth. He has such an adorable furry
Jenny and AslanJenny and AslanJenny and Aslan

Cheetahs Rock, Zanzibar, Tanzania
face, I let my guard down and went to touch his nose but was quickly told to keep fingers out. Aslan is friendly, but still a wild animal and natural instincts will kick in. To prove this, one of the staff ran beside the enclosure and Aslan sprung like a tight coil released, chasing the man along the edge of the fence. There's so much power in that cat.

Jenny told us about white lions and that they can mate with tawny lions but theirs is the recessive gene, so again it's hard to keep them from extinction because of poachers and trophy hunters. Aslan had fathered four cubs with another lion from South Africa (it takes a lot of work to find a mate who is not too close in the gene pool). The cubs were released into a South African conservation area, but staff were bribed and in one night all four were poisoned, mutilated and torn apart by poachers. White lions cannot be released into the wild anymore, because they will be poached and killed. Jenny was very choked up when she told us about the four cubs, she's so close to Aslan and has so much affection for all the animals.

I've always known that walking with lion experiences or paying to stroke cubs was dodgy due to them being drugged and poached. I was very sure they get hunted when they are too old to be close to the public, but I didn't know just how bad it is. Horrible rich people pay for 'canned hunting' where the semi-tame lion is in an enclosure and the despicable person chooses to use a gun, crossbow or whatever to kill it. Then they keep the body as a trophy and can sell the bones to the Chinese medicine market for a lot of money. This is completely legal and on the increase. Extremely depressing, but some bad things are being shut down such as Tiger Temple in Thailand.

On the plus side, Aslan does have two potential mates, but one of them, Savannah is currently too young and he will just have to wait. We had the opportunity to sit in her enclosure if we followed the strict guidelines.

We sat with backs against the walls so she couldn't get behind us, feet under our chairs, sitting up straight to not appear passive and potential prey. No eye contact. No quick movements, arm waving or running. No loose clothing, nothing in pockets, no sunscreen or perfume. All of these things were to protect Savannah. One other thing, absolutely no talking. Jenny said that people do struggle to keep quiet these days (I'm sure she meant all the PHs currently around her) but we had to keep quiet for 10 minutes. And no selfies, so we were told to sit opposite friends and family so we could photograph them as Savannah walked past.

The keepers let her in bribing her with food and she was so sweet and beautiful. Jenny was constantly talking to her, guiding her vocally as one of the keepers gave her meaty treats. We were not allowed to touch her, but I hoped she would accidentally touch me. It was pure bliss, to see her joyfully bouncing round, so close and so wonderful. It couldn't last too long as it's not right, but it's an amazing memory for life and I thought it was the climax of the day.

Afterwards we met a golden tabby tiger who lived with a white lion, they'd grown up together and were like siblings. We were within centimetres of them and the same idiot PH put his fingers through the fence. That man has so much luck to have come out this fully intact. Jenny imparted more bad news about golden tabby tigers being on the verge of extinction, he could mate with a white Bengal tiger (Siberian tiger will not do) but white Bengal tigers are very rare, so if you know one, please contact Jenny at Cheetahs Rock.

The light was beginning to go and it was time for the finale, meeting two cheetah brothers. Again we had to sit quietly on the edge of the enclosure, cheetahs generally don't go for humans, preferring smaller prey, but this doesn't mean you are safe. They like to play football though and they chased a ball that the keepers kicked about. To our joy, the ball shot our way and both brothers crashed into mine and Glyn's legs.

After playtime, they walked up and down and we were allowed to stroke them as they purred like loud domestic cats, loving the fuss. Finally each was bribed onto tree stumps with lots of meat as we each slowly had a chance to sit by them whilst the keeper took our photos on our cameras. Glyn stood behind and I sat in the lower stump, meaning that our cheetah was above me. I stroked him and he turned around, looking at my hair and then chewed the top of my head just like my cats at home do! And just like my cats, who sometimes put their teeth around me (just enough to hold me but not break the skin), this cheetah put his teeth around my head and I could feel his teeth on my skull. It felt playful and the keepers were laughing that he must like red hair before luring him off with more meat. It was a dream come true, to be so close and get this genuine playful interaction. Afterwards Glyn pointed out that there was cheetah slobber in my hair, OMG, I wonder how many people in the world can claim that?!

It was getting dark and it was time to reclaim all our loose items and say goodbye. I thanked Jenny for all she and her team do for the animals and thanked her son for such an awesome experience that I will be boring people at parties with forever.

The drive home was quicker, maybe because I was on such a high and reliving the moments over and over again.

The day ended with a lovely meal at an Ethiopian restaurant near our hotel. There is a hand washing ceremony as all the food is served on a massive pancake type thing that you rip and use to scoop up the food. Glyn and I shared a vegetarian platter that we both really enjoyed but couldn't eat all of it. Glyn had Ethiopian coffee and I washed it down with Serengeti lager - it has a cheetah on the label!


21st September 2018

A Cheetah chewed my hair
Well- enough said. Very few people can say that. You continue to have a marvelous trip.
21st September 2018
ploughshare tortoise, almost extinct :-(

We are divers
We love turtles... land based and sea turtles.

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