When I’m able to play a part in making one of my client’s dream photoshoots come true, and support a good cause at the same time…
It truly makes me so grateful to be doing what I’m doing with my life. Sure it’s not all rosey… life rarely is. But then when an experience comes along like this, it’s pure magic.
Jenny, who’s visiting Cape Town from America loves wildlife and has spent much of her time and energy working with Southern African wildlife organisations. When, in our discussions about her upcoming photoshoot, she mentioned being photographed with Cheetahs – my ears perked up!
So I set about making it happen and I reached out to the Cheetah Outreach to find out if this was possible.
You may or may not know that I’m vegan for the animal welfare reasons so I did need to learn more about the Cheetah Outreach centre before committing to the process. On their website the first thing they share is…
Our primary goal is to promote the survival of the free ranging, South African, cheetah
And when we arrived at the cheetah sanctuary in Somerset West, the dedicated staff explained more about what they’re trying to achieve and the role that the outreach programme plays in the bigger picture.
Ultimately, it all comes down to education. In my opinion, the underpinning issue with all problems on our planet comes down to lack of education. So the Cheetah Outreach programme exists to raise funds and educate humans about the plight of the current wild cheetah population, and to convey the importance of protecting these beautiful animals out in the wild.
Livestock farmers and their shotguns are the biggest threat to the wild cheetah in South Africa, (another reason to go vegan, #justsaying), so another aspect of the Cheetah Outreach is the Livestock Guarding Dog programme, where they breed and train dogs to protect the livestock, so the farmers can keep their guns safely packed away.
So yes, on the one hand, it’s sad to see wild animals being domesticated so that humans can interact with them, but on the other hand, unless those same humans begin to actually care about the animals, they’ll continue to threaten the existance of the species. And while those humans pay their fees for their interactions, the cheetahs at the facilities and the cheetahs in the wild are being well looked after, because there are resources available to do so.
And just so you know… not anyone can just walk in and do a photoshoot with these beautiful creatures. Their handlers take great strides in ensuring their wellbeing, and we were made aware that if the cats did not want to participate, they would not be forced to. We were under the instruction of the handlers at all times, and it was very clear to see that they’ve forged very deep, caring relationships with these animals, and their wellbeing is the number one priority of the team. I’ll also mention that a hefty fee is associated with getting permission to do the photoshoot with the cats which goes towards their programme upkeep. In total, we were only photographing with the cheetahs for about 25 minutes.
In summary, in an ideal world, no human would get the chance to be this close to a cheetah and smile for the camera. But unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. So the next best thing is to create awareness, educate and make damn sure that the cheetahs that are left are protected and kept out of harm’s way at the hands of uneducated, uncaring humans.
If programmes like this make that possible, then let’s support them. And if, by supporting them, I get to make one woman’s dream come true of photographing her alongside the creatures she cares so deeply for, then I’m all for that.
This is TRULY a photo shoot I will not forget!
Take a look at the behind the scenes video here…
Also, big ups to Little.Harlequin Does Makeup for making Jenny look and feel fabulous for her shoot….and for capturing this behind the scenes video!