A major component to the success of CFF’s work is developing strong partnerships with the locals and especially government officials. This is key to smoothly operate and continue to grow, especially in African nations. Even in our first few days in country we had the opportunity meet some major political allies and partners in preservation. A long term goal for the Somaliland project is to eventually release the cheetahs into a protected area called Deed Geeble (an 80 acre preserve, a two hour drive North of Hargeisa)… this would provide the closest thing to being released into the wild and would be dependent on further cooperation from especially the Ministry of Environment and Rural Development. Minister Wasiirka Deegaanka, has led the ministry for decades, and in addition to finding her to be a lovely person, she is dedicated to preserving the cheetah and other species, which are natural treasures in her country. We had the opportunity to speak with her at length about conservation and traveling to nearby Berbera located on the Aiden Sea, known for its beautiful white sandy beaches and blue water. We also learned about the proper beach attire… the burkini.
Stephen Schwartz, a career diplomat, who had served as the first US ambassador to Somalia in over 20 years. Though no longer serving in that role since late 2017, he was back in Somalia and seemed to have an interest in visiting the CCF project while in Hargeisa. Loretta recalls her conversation with Ambassador Schwartz: “After the Ambassadors tour, he asked me where I was from, I answered the Buffalo Area, but he wanted to know exactly where. After telling him I lived in East Aurora, he responded the he grew up in Williamsville, a suburb of Buffalo, less than 20 miles from Hawk Creek! Additionally, he asked why I was here? My response was quick and unfortunately for me emotional. These people do so much with so little because its passion that drives them. Jarod and I are here because of the importance of protecting cheetahs. It is the right thing to do to save these magnificent cats. They estimate that there are only 500 Somali cheetahs left in the wild. It’s the right thing to do.” Before I fail to mention, Stephen asked if I knew the current president of Somalia is a University of Buffalo grad and spent many years in Western New York to influence peace and economic growth.