During 2018, thanks in part to Thacher-inspired outdoor skills, I enjoyed three rewarding volunteer adventures. First, in January, accompanied by a local guide and one porter, I trekked into a remote region of Nepal where villagers were still living in makeshift huts after the recent, devastating earthquake and hand delivered dozens of warm jackets. Later, I spent a week working with elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand, eventually taking one trusting elephant unaccompanied on a magical walk through the woods. Finally, last Christmas, I flew to South Africa, where I spent two weeks working with leopards and cheetahs at one of the country’s few ethical conservation and breeding programs. If there’s anything more wonderful than getting a morning kiss on the face by a 150 pound leopard, it’s spending the night sleeping sandwiched between two purring adult cheetahs. The rub? Knowing that there are only 6,000+ cheetahs left in the wild. One of them, Jasmine, was bred in “our” program— among of the first captive borns to be successfully released into the protected wild. I would strongly urge any Thacher animal lover interested in helping preserve a magnificent species to contact Ashia Cheetah Conservation, Paarl, and Cheetah Experience, Bloemfontein (South Africa). The only thing you have to fear is that once you have started to form a bond with a big cat, you will find it almost impossible to say goodbye. For my part, I’m heading back in July.
Bill Rubenstein CdeP 1974