Mainstreet asked some questions of Earl Pfeiffer, the man who cares for two cheetahs and has been apoealing to have them kept on location on the East Shore in Crawford Bay. Below are the questions and Pfeiffer’s responses.
Was the cheetah spotted in the summit between Crawford Bay and Kootenay Bay your cheetah?
As far as I am aware, with one exception we know of, we are the only private cheetahs owners in North America.
Did you get her back?
Both Annie and Robin are safe and sound and always have been. When an animal loves you, there is no need to capture it. Annie and Robin stay because they want to. You may not know it but cheetahs can “chirp” exactly like a bird. They use this signal for various communication but mostly to find each other without attracting the attention from other predators. Separating Robin and Annie from us or each other leads to a lot of chirping or bang on a dinner pan and a cheetah comes running.
Pop quiz: What is a cheetah’s two most favourite foods? Answer: ice cream and scrambled eggs (not together). Mostly they must have a very lean diet of less than 3% fat meat with vitamins and minerals added. Cheetahs are the super athletes of the animal world. In the wild they eat from a kill only once and suffer a get deal of kleptoparasitism because they are almost completely indefensive. They have very small teeth, small jaws and, jaw pressure, and claws that are only good for running so nearly any animal in Africa can steal their lunch, and do. They are very good hunters, the best in the cat world.
Where are the cheetahs now?
Annie and Robin live legally in Ontario at this time.
Many people seem bothered by these animals being in this climate. Can you explain why you feel it’s okay?
That is our most FAQ. After 6 years, I can tell you with no uncertainty that cheetahs have no problem surviving or thriving in a cold climate. Even in Africa and many of the deserts where they live, temperatures get below 0 at night. From that point it is merely personality. Annie loves the snow and cold and would spend all day running around. Robin loves his nice warm bed. They have always had and will continue to have the choice to be outside or in their heated area. They never spend a night outside. Climate is not the problem. Trees and rocks are the problem. When a cheetah is pursuing a prey animal it is completely fixed on that animal and NOTHING can change them. Prey animals have the advantage of making split second turns that the cheetah must follow. At pursuit speeds any mistake could mean a cheetah hitting a fixed object travelling at well over 50 mph. It is horrible to witness and usually fatal. Please watch this incredible 7 minute video done by Nat Geo of cheetah Tommy T, who I have seen run at the Cincinnati Zoo. Notice how his head never moves:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THA_5cqAfCQ
If we get the permits to have Annie and Robin here, we hope everyone in the area will take the time to meet them. We will have them out for walks every day and we do run Annie as much as we can. We use two electric lure machines, one that goes 35 miles another and another that does 70 miles an hour. It is a sight to behold. Ricky our dog can run about 24 miles an hour. That is just a fast trot for Annie. She loves to pick on poor Ricky. Think of her as a house cat who has an attitude about the house dog. Whenever Ricky turns his back, she just can’t help herself. Only she weighs 95 pounds. Ricky is far stronger and has bigger teeth and a bigger jaw and more jaw strength but Annie is queen. Ricky’s greatest joy is chasing his rubber ball. Annie’s greatest joy is running after a rubber ball. His rubber ball.
Can you explain why you feel that keeping them in captivity is important?
The cheetah is doomed. They will be gone from the wild no later than 2027. My calculation is 2024. There will be a few in parks and marginal areas but that is it. That leaves roughly 1700 in captivity around the world. Remembering here that HUMANITY is the single reason they are going extinct, should we then let them all die? This is not God deciding this or Darwin. This is human apathy. If our planet was as important to us as our cell phones, this place would be in great shape. Cheetahs are hard wired for about 50% of their behaviour. They know how to run after an animal, they know automatically how to clamp on the neck to kill it. Then there are things they learn from their mother. Like that they can’t kill a full size ostrich. If we can keep them from complete extinction, there is no reason not to believe that someday they can be reintroduced to the wild.
Al Oeming took cheetahs around to schools in the 1970’s and every person who ever saw his cheetah (he named them all Tawana) never forgot a single detail of that day.
Look, if I said I was going to do a presentation on cheetah conservation and would have a life sized stuffed toy cheetah there for everyone to see, would you come? If I said that I was going to do a presentation on cheetah conservation and would have two live cheetahs and everyone would get to see them run at top speed. Would you come? These animals are real and they are really dying off.
We do have programs in progress I think people will very much like. We are hoping to have students collect money for GPS collars that can be sent to Africa to help cheetah researchers. If we are right, we are hoping the students who do that will be able to track their cheetahs on their own computers anytime they want. That’s the idea. Each collar costs over $5000.
Do you live in Crawford Bay now?
Yes, I live here. I spent a huge amount of money building an enclosure area for the cats (though they do need walks and runs each day outside) and I stay to fight the government while Carol looks after the cats. And yes, I had to build the enclosures before we could even apply for permits. And get vet checks. And get insurance. For each application. And each time the Director would find a reason to say no. Once in the Ministry of Appeal hearing room, her comments, all under oath become record and she definitely ran out of reasons. Cheetahs represent all animals on earth. We have now lost our Ghost Caribou. The Mountain Caribou are next and so on and so on.
We do want to stay here. I believe in my heart that Crawford Bay is the right place for Robin, Annie, Carol, Ricky (our cheetah dog) and me. We want to go to schools as far reaching as we can drive and make Annie and Robin valued members of this community.
Why haven’t you communicated with the community until now? People have expressed that they wished that you had reached out earlier and gotten folks on side with you and educated them, or at least informed them about these animals in the area.
This is a good question and I must put this one on my shoulders. I do not trust the media and I am a fairly quiet and private person, none of which translates well in building support. Having said that, I reached the end of my rope in that Ministry Appeal Room having to spend 3 days with the very people killing our environment. That is very poisoned air and a mentality I could NOT understand. My lawyer leaned over more than once and said: “Stop rolling your eyes like that.”
I know this must seem silly but ALL we started out to do was take two cheetahs to schools so children could see them and maybe we could raise awareness of the need for our environment. Instead, this has turned into a mission, a march through hell. It would have been far cheaper for the tax payers if the Director of Wildlife just hired a hitman. The people in that appeal room all cared about a lot of things, none of them to do with the environment.
We just wanted to do a small thing. Do you know the story of the boy and the starfish? All we wanted to be able to say is “we made a difference to that one.” We didn’t have grandiose dreams, just a small idea.
It’s a bit unclear in the letter… Have you lost the cheetahs or the right to keep them in captivity just here in Crawford Bay, or in the Kootenays in general – in BC? Do you intend to appeal? Is the decision final?
We cannot have them anywhere in BC at this time. The animals laws in BC are the most stringent in Canada due to the death of one person in 2007. Final written submissions to the Ministry of Environment Appeal Board are due November 7th. We have already submitted ours. The single chairperson for the Appeal Board makes the final ruling. After that, depending on what has been said and done, it would have to go to a court of law but based on what is now evidence and public record, our chances would be much better. We would prefer the Ministry to shoulder this at this point since it would end up going back to them anyways.