The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre is just over an hours drive from Amanzi Guest House in Johannesburg. Its a lovely country drive towards the Magaliesburg Mountains and the view of the Hartebeespoort Dam is lovely. Rob and I took our grandsons to this Cheetah Centre also known as the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre a couple of days ago. What an adventure. Such a fun thing to do as an adult, or a child.
We booked for the Cheetah run – (I wasn’t sure if we were running with the cheetahs or how it would work) but it turned out that we walked behind a shoulder high grass fence and watched the cheetah chase a lure on a specialised track.
The handler getting ready to set the lure in action, and checking to see where our Ambassador Cheetah is photo source: Pam H
A truck drives up and an Ambassador cheetah lazily hops out, not a lot different from my cat hopping down from a table. Simultaneously a lure was mechanically jerked along a 200 metre line. Our cheetah sprang into action, and I mean sprang – from zero to 80 km/hour in a couple of seconds.
Yeats, the Ambassador cheetah chasing the lure at top speed. Cheetahs spend half of the time they are sprinting in the air and use their tails to balance
Yeats uses his tail to turn at an incredible speed, dust flies photo source: Pam H
An easy run for Yeats, the cheetah. Yeats pounces on his “prey” and is rewarded by the handler who leads him back to the truck hurriedly. I can only assume the hurry is to divert him from investigating us behind the grass fence.
Yeats gets a reward from his handler for “catching his prey”. She tells us that the cheetahs are very proud of their prey Photo source: Pam H
Together with our guide we walk past about 20 Ambassador cheetahs each in a separate enclosure. Our guide explains that these cheetahs have been used as Ambassadors to create awareness of their species and help with fundraising initiatives. The Centre has bred over 800 cubs since its opening in 1971. This is an amazing achievement, as there are only about 10,000 cheetahs world wide now. She works with the cheetahs so they know her, and deep purring erupts as she scratches many of the cats. Its so tempting to do the same, they look so tame. But we are strictly warned about keeping our distance.
Our guide tells us that The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre is the first breeder of the rare king Cheetah – so named not because of its size. Its coat is different with larger black blotches – there are no King Cheetahs in the wild now, so they are a must see.
Yeats, our Ambassador Cheetah, is brought into the meeting room, where he hops up onto a table- Fascinating information is shared by the handlers, but my eyes are riveted on the purring cat licking his handler.
All the facts I had read about on the internet don’t come close to how it feels to be in the presence of these magnificent creatures. The Ambassador Cheetahs are trained to allow people see them up close. Being close to a cheetah, and listening to it purr is an amazing experience and privilege.
The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. They can reach a top speed of around 113 km per hour in a few seconds. However they tire quickly and can only keep up their top speed for a few minutes before they are too tired to continue.
Then we climb into a large game drive vehicle, and drive around the rest of the Centre. I love seeing the Wild Dogs. The programme at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre has saved these animals from extinction, so they are no longer on the endangered list, but rather vulnerable list.
The Wild Dogs have been successfully bred at the Centre, and you will now see them at many Game reserves, like Madikwe Photo source: Pam H
The African Wild Dog, also known as the Cape Hunting Dog, or African painted dog is an endangered species, and the Centre has been assisting with increasing their numbers through their breeding programme. tip: record the yipping of the dogs Photo source: Pam H
The Centre also has programmes for other smaller cats, Brown Hyena, and the Cape Vulture.
Treat yourself, and make a visit to the De Wildt Cheetah Centre soon! You might even be inspired to become part of the Adoption programme!