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  • I really appreciated Cecilia's and Sean Poole's stories about rare animals, especially big cats, being used in educational and conservation efforts.

    For several years our school supported a cheetah rehabilitation center outside Pretoria. We had a school wide vote about which organization to support and different classes lobbied for different organizations. The cheetah group literally stole the election each time because they brought Byron, a full grown cheetah, into the school.

    Imagine a room of about 100 kids ages 4-12 (all prey sized morsels) and in stalks a cheetah on a bit of a leash. He hopped up on a table and lay down. His purr shook the table. But every once in a while he sat bolt upright, alert and ready. They told us to be still then. We were.

    The whole school got a chance to touch him. The cleaning and maintenance staff lined right up with the kids. It is/was an amazing experience and one that brought us all into direct and personal contact with the wild. Byron and other ambassadors (their words) were cubs that were rescued and for one reason or another could not be returned to the wild.

    Here is what the students in grade 2 had to say about meeting him a few years ago:

    “Today when we saw Byron Cheetah it was very exciting. When we saw Byron Cheetah, we were able to pet him and he was so soft and furry.” Andrew

    “De Wildt Cheetah Centre was exciting because I saw cheetahs. First of all, there was a king cheetah and a normal cheetah. They were both in a huge cage.” Carlo

    “I love cheetahs and other animals. Firstly, cheetahs are really, really fast. They can run faster than any animals on earth.” David

    “Learning about Byron was fantastic. First of all, when Byron came to class he looked very cute! He had lots of fur. He also looked a little old. But he still looked fantastic.” Nandita

    “The tour guide told us that cheetahs can run faster than a car is allowed to go on most highways. That is very cool.” Camille

    “Byron is the beautiful cheetah. I love Byron. I did not touch a big cheetah before I only touched a little cheetah.” Emma

    “The cheetah at school was cool. At first, when we saw a really live cheetah I was feeling kind of impatient! Next, the cheetah was here. His name is Byron.” Joseph

    “Byron is the best cheetah I have ever seen. First, we sat down and I was so excited! We first learned about the cheetah. Next, Byron was in the drama room. When Byron was coming in the door I was staring at him because I was so extremely still.” Lisa

    “When we went to the Cheetah Research Centre it was cool. First, it was like we were in the jungle. I thought we were going to walk a long time, but we didn’t.” Stevie

    “Everybody was excited to see Byron at school. First of all, if you think Byron is a human you are wrong, he is a cheetah. He has spots, he has tear marks.” Tatiana

    “Byron the cheetah is the ambassador. Trained, Byron is trained to visit people. Even though he is tame he is still a wild animal. Exciting, when Byron came in…it felt like jumping jelly beans in my stomach. It felt like a miracle was about to happen.” Freja

    “It was excellent to see Byron! First of all, Byron was purring all the time. They purr when they are happy and calm. He was so cute! Next, the man told us how old he was. He is 7 years old!” Alma
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