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Travel Namibia 41

Undiscovered Namibia 42 Travel Namibia Clive and Roma started building the PAWS project in May 2008, and their fi rst guests arrived in August. At the moment their capacity is ten, but they hope to increase that to 28 in the coming months. " We work hard here, but the rewards are great," says Roma. Clive, whose previous jobs have included being a holistic therapist, a wine adviser and a security guard, is a qualifi ed wildlife guide. Clive's safaris into Okonjima Game Reserve are justifi ably popular. As he drives his commentary is fascinating. " There's a dik dik. Did you know that they don't drink? They get all the moisture they need from eating leaves. See that eland? He can jump two- and- a- half metres from standing. That cheetah is touching the ground about every seven metres when it is running". The speed that cheetahs run is one of the reasons that the bush at Okonjima needs to be cleared of shrub. A cheetah's defensive refl exes cannot keep up when it sprints and so it can't blink in time to protect its eyes from the sickle bush's sharp thorns. Increasingly, rescued cheetahs are being found with damaged eyes. There's a concern across Namibia that if sickle bush encroachment cannot be stopped then more and more cheetahs will have damaged sight. Cheetahs, relying only on their hearing to hunt, will then prey on cattle which, unlike game, make plenty of noise. This will only increase the current confl ict between the country's farmers and its big cats. Perhaps the biggest incentive for PAWS guests is that they will be involved in an AfriCat rescue. In the fi rst four months of operating, PAWS project members have helped save 17 cheetahs from farms where they would otherwise have been shot. Sixteen of those cats have been successfully reintroduced to the wild, one at water hole where that leopard has just been spotted. The waterhole was dug by the guests themselves and they fi tted a spotlight in the hope of round- the-clock wildlife viewing. That was just two days ago. As they talk excitedly about the young female leopard, totally wild, that spent 20 minutes drinking from their freshly- dug hole, I hear the words time and again, " It's just so satisfying". ¦ For more information visit www. pawsnamibia. org, www. okonjima. com, www. africat. org ADAM PACEY