One brave and totally committed Frenchman decided that living with cheetahs was the only way to understand them. He went into an enclosure day in and day out for 8 months (but as I understand it has been in contact with big cats for four years) with a special group of five orphaned cheetahs as the most efficient way to get be able to gain their acceptance and to be able to communicate with them to the point where he could call the cheetahs once released into the wild to protect them from farmers who treat them as pests.
Lets not forget that cheetahs most often live on farmland. Farmers share the space with cheetahs because the human population of Namibia (the place where most cheetahs are found) has expanded leading to an encroachment onto the cheetah’s range.
The person is Olivier Houale. He is 28 years old (as at feb 2009) and he wants to help save the big cats. He says that he was able to survive in the cheetah’s enclosure by facing down the cheetah, projecting the message that he wasn’t frightened and he says that he had to genuinely mean that otherwise the cheetah would sense fear and attack. He never once went into an enclosure without the cheetah challenging him. He also used his hands to make himself look as big as possible and used eye contact. Cats generally don’t like eye contact. Maine Coons are somewhat of an exception, it seems.
Note: the video is no longer available. That is the nature of the internet!
Here he is with his cheetahs, facing them off and gaining acceptance. He is called Cheetah Man
Not only does he help to save released cheetahs from dying at the hands of farmers he is also focusing on the farmers to try and teach them to live with nature rather than be at war with it. Living with cheetahs has given him a deep understanding of the cat and the challenging problems this cat faces in a human world at war with nature.
Photos are reproduced from the film about this man that was produced by Gecko Productions – a link is provided here: Gecko Productions