I'll start from the beginning. We have a leopard, Shiloweni, who lives in an enclosure just outside of camp. He became too comfortable around people, got too close, and was going to be shot if he continued living in the wild. While he was initially being transported, he woke up and bit down on the steel bars of his cage - breaking his canines completely. Now he has no canines, and could not hunt in the wild. So, he lives with us. We feed him every day so that he won't try to run away (there's no such thing as a leopard-proof fence, even though ours is very electric) and he lives a pretty cushy life. Every day the kids go up on a platform outside his cage to look for him, and usually they are able to see him.
He's been here about two years, and in that time no one has been inside his camp. The owners thought it would be a good idea to get the vet to have a look at him, just to make sure he is healthy. So, we called our local vet, Peter Rogers, to come and dart the leopard and check on him. But while he was asleep, we figured we should also clean out his camp to take out all the bones from his meals of the last two years. So of course, as Volunteer Coordinator, it was decided that I would be the one person in charge of this operation. I had a lot of help, obviously, from all the other people in charge, but it was my voice that told the volunteers the plan, and where they needed to be when.
We split the camp into quadrants, and had a cleanup team in each section. Two by two they were able to come take their pictures with the sleeping leopard, and even the kids got to come touch him and take pictures with him. They couldn't believe how soft he was, and one kid told me, "He's so beautiful!" Of course I got to take some photos with him as well.. it was such a special treat. At first I thought maybe he would wake up and we would all die, but then I thought, oh well, I get to touch a leopard!
The organization was a bit tricky, and it was a bit stressful at times, but what an opportunity. It's my last week as coordinator next week, and I'm glad I can add more crazy experiences like this to my resume.
Here I am, coordinating important things over the radio:
Here the vets are checking Shiloweni's mouth:
Here the volunteers are getting started cleaning: