As I prepare to head back to Namibia after a busy spring tour of the U.S., I realize that I am taking so many great memories back with me. I met many new friends and spent time with longtime supporters, and I am truly thankful. It has also been a sad time, as I learned about the recent deaths of two old friends, Peggy and Hershey.
Peggy passed away May 7 from complications during surgery. She was 12 years old. I remember her arrival, in 2000, at CCF Namibia. She was six months old and in a great deal of pain. Peggy had been trapped in a capture cage for a month, and her right front leg was fractured. We performed surgery in the veterinary clinic, and Peggy's leg healed. She stayed with us for a brief time afterward. She was destined to participate in a breeding program to save her species.
In 2001 the government of Namibia presented a gift of 10 cheetahs to the United States. Peggy was one of those cheetahs. Peggy was sent to the White Oak Conservation Center in Florida. She spent 10 years, most of her life, at White Oak, where she had three litters. Peggy was mother to a total of 10 cubs!
In 2011 she was sent to Brevard Zoo for a well-deserved retirement. She spent three years "rolling in the grass and relaxing," according to zookeepers at Brevard.
Hershey passed away May 22 in Namibia. Hershey was born in 2002 in the wild. She came to CCF as a cub, with her five siblings. They were caught at a farm near Otavi. Their mother was never found. Hershey and her siblings were raised at CCF headquarters in Namibia, with the goal that one day they would be released back into the wild. That day came in January 2011. Hershey was released into the Erindi Private Game Reserve with her sisters, Toblerone and Nestle. Hershey lived free, on over 270 square miles, for the past three years.
Amid the whirlwind of appearances over the past month, these deaths made me stop and consider. Yes, it's sad that we lost Peggy and Hershey, but their survivals were success stories. Through multinational cooperation they were given second chances at survival. Peggy was given the chance to increase the genetic diversity of her species through the Species Survival Plan (SSP). Hershey was able to spend her final years running free as a wild cheetah thanks to CCF's rewilding program.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund, White Oak Conservation Center, Erindi Private Game Reserve and zoos all over the world work tirelessly every day to help individual cheetahs like Peggy and Hershey. We do it to preserve a future for cheetahs everywhere.