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War on Crime march on Main Road, Somerset West.

Written by Murray Williams

  cn_rh_crim-tLast Saturday over 300 residents attended the Somerset 1 War on Crime march on Main Road, Somerset West. The town has suffered a spate of crimes lately, with the CBD being a target for criminals, with a number of businesses robbed at gunpoint.

Read more: War on Crime march on Main Road, Somerset West.


Concern over new visa rules

Written by Murray Williams

  The new visa regulations are  creating causing people to have  a negative perception about our country, says Somerset West resident Louise van Rensburg.  Ms Van Rensburg and her husband, Tobie, own a self-catering studio, which they \[orielle.berry\]typically rent out to “swallows” – visitors from European countries like Germany and the Netherlands, who spend four months or more in the Helderberg Basin during our summer.

Read more: Concern over new visa rules


Fleet-footed ambassadors

Written by Murray Williams

  cn_rh_cheetahcub1-TOrielle Berry Gambolling about in their enclosure, Ivory and Ishaan are all spindly legs and balls of fluff. They chase each other around, not a care in the world, then come to rest against the fence, where they lie basking in the warm winter sun, paws casually slung over each other, cleaning furry faces and seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are melting visitors’ hearts.cn_rh_cheetahcub1-M

Orielle Berry Gambolling about in their enclosure, Ivory and Ishaan are all spindly legs and balls of fluff. They chase each other around, not a care in the world, then come to rest against the fence, where they lie basking in the warm winter sun, paws casually slung over each other, cleaning furry faces and seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are melting visitors’ hearts.

These two newcomers to the Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West, last week turned three months old. And while they had a cold and wet welcome as the heavens opened when they arrived (after a nine-hour trip from Bloemfontein), they are settling in very well at their new home.

This is in no small part due to the doting staff at the centre – for whom it was love at first sight. At night, the cubs cuddle up for a warm night’s sleep in the board room of the rambling old Herbert Baker house that accommodates the Outreach Centre – and, as passionate staffer Karen Williams tells Bolander, there are no complaints from the “babysitters”.

As she points out, “it’s really no hardship to look after such adorable creatures”. It will take the little cubs, who each now weighing around 5 kg, at least two years to reach full adulthood at an ideal weight of around 45 to 55kg. And while the two little male siblings are typical clumsy toddlers, the pair already have the makings of the slender and graceful bodies that they will finally grow into.

Cheetahs are the world’s most fleet-footed land animals, being able to reach speeds of 110-120km/h km, with a stride of seven to eight metres and acceleration of 0-80km in 3 seconds. In ancient history they were beloved of the pharoahs who kept them as pets and also tamed and trained them for hunting. But in South Africa, their numbers have tragically dwindled and there only about 850 of these nimble cats around.

Karen, a passionate spokesperson for the centre, says Cheetah Outreach works to educate people about the creatures whose survival as a species is under threat, due in part to inbreeding which leads to fragmentation of their population; loss in habitat and decrease in prey and conflict with livestock and game farmers.   “We want people to learn more and have an intimate relationship with the cubs and fully grown cheetahs,” says Karen, and while anyone can visit the centre at a minimal price, those who want to come up close and personal can pay an extra fee and have the heart-warming experience of touching them.

Karen says many of the cheetahs who are reared at the centre become their own greatest “ambassadors” to put out the message of their plight. Joseph or Jo as he is fiondly called, is probably the centre’s greatest ambassador. Born at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in 2002 and hand-reared, he came to Cheetah Outreach with his brothers Kaya and Bryon at three and a half months of age and since then, has been an essential part of the centre’s awareness programme, greeting visitors both at the facility and at venues throughout Cape Town.

We get the opportunity to meet Jo, stretched out lazily on a low wooden deck soaking up the winter sun and he purrs loudly as he rests his great head on Karen’s arm and allows us, without the blink of an eyelid to gently stroke his back. As Karen jokes, not all the resident cheetahs are as cooperative as Jo and many climb high up on the roofs of their enclosures, out of reach, instead of “doing their job” in greeting visitors – thus lie Hemmingway and Enigma, whiling away the better part of the morning.

The Cheetah Outreach project was started eight years ago on a piece of land donated by Spier estate and moved to its premises in Paardevlei two years ago. It borders a rehabilitated wetland and has a vlei where the cheetahs are walked. The centre also operates the all-important Anatolian Shepherd Guarding Dog Project, whereby they breed the dogs, which with their loud barks and size scare away cheetahs from farmers’ land  and other predators.

Their success rate in lowering livestock loss is considerably greater than other methods, says Karen. And the dogs are given to farmers who do not pay any money but sign a contract with the centre. “From the fees charged to visitors at the centre there’s thus the nice cycle whereby it funds the cost of breeding the dogs”. Sherlock is the latest addition to the project - three-quarters bloodhound and a quarter Doberman who comes from Green Dogs Conservation in Limpopo with whom the centre has a breeding partnership. Trained to track cheetahs; done mostly by detecting their scent, Sherlock, says Karen, demonstrates how a tracking dog works and is also at the centre to explain the value of these dogs in cheetah conservation.

The project is also home to many smaller predators, like caracal, serval, bat-eared fox and black-backed jackal and two resident meerkats and children and adults alike can climb up the stairs to a large viewing platform with from which to admire the animals. Reading the many messages of those who have had a valuable and enriching experiences at the centre one cannot but agree with the visitor comments such as:

“They definitely raised my awareness on all these beautiful beasts…. “People should understand that without such facilities the work of people trying to educate and conserve such beautiful creatures would be so much more difficult “We understand that such a "petting zoo" can be controversial, but for us it gave us a different perspective and more respect for the cheetah and what it takes to help keep the cheetah population from declining. “Whether such places like these face criticism or negative reviews, I believe innately they want to help the cheetahs and a great way is to expose people to these lovely creatures.”


Sons and daughters of the soil stand tall

Written by Murray Williams

  CHPA02TOn August 28, 1963, a man stood up in Washington DC and said: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”

Read more: Sons and daughters of the soil stand tall


Hooked on fly fishing

Written by Beatrice Wiltshire


Somerset West resident Elena Kuehl is a\[orielle.berry\]one very proud mother. H\[orielle.berry\]Why? Because her 15-year-old son Konrad, will be jetting off to Poland on July 16 to take part in the 13th World Youth Fly Fishing Championships in the Nowy Sacz region.

“I’m so very happy for and proud of him. He’s very young to have achieved what he has done, getting into the junior Protea’s team to represent his country,” Ms Kuehl told Bolander.

The Parel Vallei Grade 10 pupil only started fly fishing four years ago. “I fished for the first time at Eikendal Dam with a friend, Daniel du Toit, and I caught a trout. It was just so exciting. I was hooked,” he said

Konrad continued fly fishing and was approached by a member of Boland Fly Fishing who suggested he join the Boland team. “I attended several Boland trials, and was selected to go to the junior nationals in September 2012 in Mpumalanga, where I won a gold with the biggest fish of the competition, 40cm in length.”

Read more: Hooked on fly fishing


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