E-Travel Log # 9: Cheetahs!!

Dear students:

Lilia and I are now on our way back to China and the U.S., respectively. Last year, just before we left Namibia, we went on a field trip to the Cheetah Conservation Fund in a town called Otjiwarongo with fifth, sixth and seventh graders from the Van Rhyn Middle School in Windhoek. So, in this report, we’ll include a flashback to that trip, tell you about cheetahs and other Namibian carnivores; challenge you with another guess-who animal poem; and list more responses to your questions. (We’ll send one more report this coming week to wrap up the project.) Enjoy!



Do you have pedestrian crossing signs in your town? How about cattle or deer crossing signs? How about warthog crossing signs? In Namibia, animals, while fascinating and beautiful, are a major road hazard for venturing travelers. (Or, from the animals' perspective: Cars are a major grazing hazard for animals who venture near the roads.) We saw kudu, damara dik-dik, warthog, guinea fowl, springbok and leopard crossing signs in our travels -- but the animals we had to hit the brakes for most (by far!) were cows, sheep and donkeys (including some that refused to get out of the road!).


Most of Namibia is farmland and wild animal habitat both at the same time -- and when farm animals and wild animals have to share the same land, conflicts naturally arise -- usually to the
disadvantage of the wild animals, since the farm animals have people on their sides. If farm animals eat too much, for example, herbivorous wild animals move elsewhere (or die) and predators occasionally resort to eating farm animals instead of their natural prey. Farmers don't like that and they often kill the predators. But that makes things worse. If a cheetah, for example, grows up without parents, it never learns to hunt properly and has to go after the easiest targets (the farm animals) even though it wouldn't in natural circumstances.

As a result, outside of Etosha, wild animal populations have declined significantly in Namibia over the years -- and some animals, like the cheetah, have become endangered. Even though Namibia has the largest population of cheetahs in the world, the number has gone from 7000 to 2,500 in the last century and the decline continues.


Recognizing that cheetahs are on the brink of extinction if things don't change significantly, The Cheetah Conservation Fund conducts long-term conservation research on cheetahs and strives to educate Namibians, especially farmers and children, about how we can save the cheetah and conserve Namibia's rich biodiversity. We camped two nights at CCF with Van Rhyn students and teachers. While there, we toured the CCF grounds, visited their museum and research center, watched the staff feed donkey meat to some cheetahs and learned lots and lots about world's fastest land animal.

You can take your own tour of CCF at www.cheetah.org.


On our back to Windhoek, we stopped at an ostrich and crocodile farm -- where people raise ostriches and crocodiles for their leather and meat. Lilia and some of the students even got to ride an ostrich and others got to feed one. They are huge birds, of course, but not the most intelligent animals in the world. On our tour, we learned that an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain!



Most Namibians like to call themselves 'carnivores' because they like to eat meat. Since most of the country is very dry, it is almost impossible to grow fruits and vegetables; so, traditionally, people have relied on hunting game and raising animals for food. Today, lots of fruits and vegetables are available in stores, shipped from nearby South Africa where there are good places to grow crops; but most Namibians still prefer meat, most often barbecued or served with corn meal or millet porridge.

Even though neither of us are normally big meat eaters, back in Windhoek, we went to a restaurant and sampled both crocodile and ostrich -- along with kudu, zebra, springbok and gemsbok. We liked the ostrich and crocodile best.



While visiting CCF and traveling in northern Namibia in general, we saw termite mounds everywhere! They are large mounds of dirt that start with a wide base and get thinner towards the top. Depending on the color of the soil in the region, they can be red, tan, grey or black. They often smother the base of dead tree and some of them reach over twelve feet high. Of course, they are loaded with termites -- called white ants in Namibia.

Most of the time, the termites that reside in the mounds and mostly stay hidden from view have no wings; but once the rains begin in the rainy season, winged termites emerge to make new mounds. Sometimes the sky is just filled with them, which means it's time for a feast. Lots of birds, lizards, mammals, fish, other insects and even people eat the harmless and slow flying insects. They taste sort of like popcorn. I know, I ate lots when I was teaching in Kenya. Would you try termites if you were given the chance?


Visit The Culture Connections Newsletter on the project Web site at www.ccprojec.org/travel/africa/tcc/index.html to read two fun stories featuring termites. The first is a true story called Having the Queen for Dinner about when I was given a chance to eat a queen termite; and the second is a traditional African story in which the rabbit learns The Art of Friendship from the termite. Have fun reading!


Here's a guess who animal poem. Guess who!


In Africa
mine is the
royal family
Forget about
the lion's claim
He wanders the
plain haughtily
But his is a narrow
domain My family's
dominion is much
wider in scope We've
colonized the whole
continent Our castles
stretch from Cairo to
the Cape of Good Hope
We're innumerable,
ubiquitous and omnipresent
And the lion claims a kingship
But 'What good's a king?' we
say Without a queen to balance
the ship The ship will sink straight
away Our queen serves faithfully
and dutifully In fact she's completely
weighed down with her burden In
her belly she carries the blind progeny
For her relentless duty's her birthing
And look what the lion does with his family
Half the time he wanders the plain so vast
He's never where the lioness wants him to be
And the rest of the time he's asleep in the grass
Our society disdains such disunity Each of us carries
a fair share load While our mandibled soldiers protect
the community Engineers and laborers create apartments
and roads And how undignified the lion's table manners
We consider them quite a disgrace For if he were vegeta-
ian like all of us He wouldn't need his cubs to lick his face
So next time you vote for our continent's royalty Think small
and many not fierce and big For a labor-based peaceful

sovereignty Is much better than a blowhard in a fancy wig.

By the way, the answer to the last report's poem is the warthog. Did you give it a new name?



Here are more answers to your questions, provided by students at the Mokaleng R.C. Combined School, Aminuis, Namibia (in the Kalahari Desert).

1. Have you ever traveled outside of Namibia? One student has, and she went to Botswana once with her family.

2. What subjects do you learn and what’s your favorite? We take Math, English, Setswana, Writing, P.E., Science and Arts.

3. What do you eat? We eat bread, porridge, meat, fish, rice, corn, vegetables, eggs, fruits and we get pudding on the weekends.

4. How many children attend your school? There are 520 students at our school, from grade 1 to grade 10.

5. Do you have pets? Almost all of us have dogs, cats and rabbits at home.

6. Do you have running water and flush toilets? At school we have running water and toilets, but at home we don’t.

7. Do you have electricity? At school yes, but at home some of us do and some of us don’t.

8. What do you do for fun? We play netball, soccer, and volleyball. We also jump ropes a lot and play ‘touch’. We all love to sing and dance and it’s a lot of fun.

9. What time does school start and end? School starts at 6:30 in the morning and ends at 12 for us because we are younger students. (For older students, the school ends at 12:30.) May and December are winter and summer vacations, and we go to school the rest of the year.

10. Do you have ice cream? Not in the town where our school is, but if we go to a bigger town we can have ice cream there.

11. What board games do you like to play? We play puzzles, and counting games using beans and holes in the ground.

These were answered by third grade students at the Hanganeni Primary School in Swakopmund (in the Namib Desert).

1. How old do you have to be to go hunting? We can hunt when we are eighteen years old, and we hunt for kudus, springboks and birds.

2. Do you have pets and what are they? Yes, we do. We have dogs and cats.

3. What do you like to eat and drink? We like to eat pizza, chocolates, porridge with mango, chicken (KFC), fish, mopani worms (worms from the mopani trees), fruits from the trees, vegetables and nuts from bushes in the Namib Desert. We like to drink milk, oshikuto (a milk drink with maize meal), Fanta and other kinds of sodas.

4. Do you have shopping malls? Yes, we do.

5. What kind of money do you have? We use Namibian dollars, although South African Rand is also used here.

6. Where do you sleep? We sleep on our beds in our rooms.

7. Do you have cars? Yes, some of our parents do.

8. Have you ever seen cheetahs? If so, are they gray when they are born? About one-third students of our class have seen cheetahs, but we have never seen a baby cheetah. By from what we have seen on TV, they are yellow and black.

9. Do you wear uniforms to school? Yes. We wear blue or white shirts with gray pants/skirts.

10. Do you use something on your skin to make it shine? No, we don’t.

These were answered by third graders at the Van Rhyn Primary School in Windhoek.

1. Is it hot there? Yes. Right now it’s summer time and it’s very hot during the day.

2. What games do you play? We play games like ‘touch’, ‘police station’ and ‘snake’. We also play Gameboy at home.

3. What sports do you play? We play soccer, netball, basketball, volleyball, tennis, rugby, cricket and American football.

4. Do you have showers? Yes, we all do.

5. How do you take care of your teeth – do you have toothpaste and dentists? Yes, we brush our teeth twice a day with toothbrush and toothpaste. We also go see dentists regularly.

6. If you have food or drinks that need to be kept cold, what do you use? We all have refrigerators at home. When we go camping, we bring coolers for our food and drinks.

7. Do hunters use spears? Yes, some people of the Herero, San (Bushman) and Himba cultures still hunt with spears, although they also use guns, bows and arrows and knives. (But in Windhoek, we don’t hunt.)

8. What type of clothing do you wear? We wear shirts, skirts, uniforms, pants, shorts, dresses, socks, shoes and traditional clothes.

9. Are you ever afraid to go to sleep at night and what would frighten you? Some of us are afraid to go to sleep at night, mostly girls. Each of us has different reasons. Some are afraid of nightmares, snakes, zombies, vampires, ghosts, the darkness, and if there are dogs barking outside. When it thunders and storms, some get afraid to sleep and go to sleep with their parents. When we watch a scary movie, most of us become afraid and can’t sleep at night. One girl is afraid of the shape of the curtain in her room at night.

10. Do you have wars? Not anymore, but there were wars before the independence, between South Africa colonists and Namibian troops.

1. What type of clothes do you wear? We wear shirts, skirts, uniforms, pants, shorts, dresses, socks, shoes and traditional clothes.

2. What fabric do you have and use? We use cotton, wool and leather.

3. Do you have celebrations? Yes. We celebrate New Year, Christmas, Easter, Hero’s Day, Human Rights Day, African Children’s Day and our birthdays.

4. What holidays do you have? We have the whole month of May off because there are quite a few holidays in May, like Cassinga Day (sort of like the Memorial Day in the States), Hero’s Day and Human Rights Day. We also have holidays around the Christmas and New Year.

5. What are some of the common names for boys and girls? Some of the common names for girls are Marsha, Charessa, Tjeuriom, Beddronella and Nguritjita. Some of the common names for boys are Hafeni, Utjiur, Nuevo, Sven and Paul.

6. Do you wear any special colors? We just wear colors that we like. On Valentine’s Day, we all wear red and pink. The colors of our national flag are special to us too, like blue, red, green and yellow, and on special occasions we wear the colors of our flag.

7. What language do you speak and write and do you have a different alphabet? We all read and write English and Africaans. Some of us speak Damara, Herero, Xhosa, Oshiwambo languages and Portuguese, but we don’t write in them. No, there’s no different alphabet.

8. Do you have televisions? Do you have cartoons like Kirby? Yes, we all like to watch TV. We have cartoons like Tom and Jerry, The Jacksons, Freddy, Star Wars and Lion King, but we don’t know Kirby.

9. Do you sing songs a lot? Yes, we like to sing a lot.

10. Do you have toys like video games? Yes, we have lots of toys. The girls like dolls, and the boys like toy cars and ships with remote control. The boys also like video games and they play Gameboy at home.



Well, that's it for this report. We'll be sending you one more report to wrap things up. Till then, learn lots.

Paul and Lilia
Africa School Project Coordinators

Teachers: Visit the Mokaleng School Field Trip site at www.oneworldclassrooms.org/travel/africa/mokaleng/index.html .

E-Travel Log #1: Introduction
E-Travel Log #2: Windhoek, the Capital of Namibia
E-Travel Log #3: Namib Desert Sand Dunes at Sosusvlei
E-Travel Log #4:Swakopmund, Between the Desert and the Ocean
E-Travel Log #5: African Animal Safari!
E-Travel Log #6: Okanguati, the Forgotten Land
E-Travel Log #7: African Languages
E-Travel Log #8: Schools in the Kalahari Desert
E-Travel Log #9: Cheetahs!!
E-Travel Log #10: So Long from Africa

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