Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Self-styled Tarzan teaches cheetahs in Namibia how to hunt

A self-styled Tarzan who has lived alongside cheetahs in Africa for the past 10 years is convinced he can teach the animals how to live in the wild.

Last Updated: 7:25AM GMT 10 Feb 2009

Olivier Houalet moved to Namibia when he was 18 and has spent so much time with the big cats, he is known as the "cheetah whisperer".

Venturing into their enclosures, he has befriended those orphaned by poachers or natural causes and hopes when they are released, they will allow him to follow them to make sure they are safe.

Now 28, he has an expert knowledge of animal behaviour but no formal qualifications.

"You just have to stay strong and not show any fear when they look as if they are going to attack," he said as part of the Five television documentary, Cheetah Man.

"And you have to mean it - you can't fake it or they can tell. I use my hands to make me look as big as possible, and eye contact is important too.

"Through your eyes, they feel your meaning. If you mean strength and respect, they will be receptive. They see you come in peace."

The first set of cheetahs he worked with had to be captured again after being released because they failed to hunt wild animals and started attacking sheep.

But Mr Houalet is confident that the cheetahs eventually will be able to live in the wild: "Normally they are set free and die because they can't cope on their own.

"This way I can still release them but I can follow them and help them until they learn to look after themselves.

"If I call them, they come to me. That is completely unique, usually humans dominate animals by drugging them or using sticks to frighten them into submission - I am part of their group.

"I am confident we can teach them the skills to survive. I know the likelihood is that they won't all survive, but they stand a better chance this way than any other I know."



Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

No comments: