At Yahoo Travel, we’re huge fans of getting up close and personal with the locals… especially if those locals just happen to be 2 feet long, furry, and endangered. So, when I heard I had the chance to cuddle with a group of baby cheetahs, my first thought was: “Oh hell yes! We must do this immediately.”
The Cheetah Outreach center on the edge of Cape Town, South Africa, is “an education and community-based program created to raise awareness of the plight of the cheetah and to campaign for its survival,” according to its website. Their motto is “See it. Sense it. Save it,” and for a mere $12, you can go and pet baby cheetahs. For the same amount, you can get your picture taken with an adult cheetah (hence, the rise of Tinder cheetah pics in South Africa). Sadly, I arrived too late for the adults — but not the babies!
If these little guys don’t melt your heart, you have no soul. (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
The cheetahs are part of a breeding program as well as a training program. The center also has several large Anatolian dogs, which they breed to help farmers defend flocks of sheep from the cheetahs.
Farmers kill cheetahs because they attack their flock, so they train the dogs to defend the sheep from cheetahs. That way the farmers won’t have a reason to go after them.
Head = exploding right about now. (Photo: Andrew Rothschild)
Even better than cuddling a baby cheetah? Sleeping with one.
Get this: If you volunteer at the Cheetah Outreach center, you get to have baby cheetah sleepovers.
The babies all sleep together and have to be watched. A volunteer sleeps with them in a room. There’s two beds and eight cheetahs. You don’t actually get much sleep. There’s a plastic sheet over the bed because, well, they’re not house-trained. But who cares? It’s a baby cheetah sleepover! Of course, since these are wild animals, there is always a risk involved in handling them in such close quarters. Still, their cuteness overwhelmed us. Sign us up, stat!
And in the future, sleepovers may not be just for volunteers.
They’re thinking of auctioning off the experience to raise money for the program.