Olivier Houalet is a 28-year old naturalist, with an amazing talent. He has learnt to communicate with wild cats and teach them how to survive in the wild. It is therefore not surprising that he is being called the modern day Tarzan or Cheetah Man!
Houalet's first close encounter with wild cats began with a Kalahari lion called Bongani, who had been raised by humans and then abandoned when he became too aggressive to control. In order to re-habilitate the animal, Olivier spent eight months trying to win his trust. While everyone else steered clear, he would spend hours talking to the lion in a quiet voice, to try gain his trust. His patience paid off, when one day Bongani lowered his head and calmly walked toward him, indicating that he had accepted him. Since then, it has become his passion to re-habilitate wild cats.
His received another opportunity when the Cheetah Conservation Center located nearby, rescued five orphaned male cheetah cubs - Ra, Kia, Mushara, Lindt and Cadbury. In the wild, cubs normally spend two years alongside their mothers learning how to catch food and survive from predators like lions and tigers, as well as, human beings. Also, their greatest chance of survival is if they move around in groups with a leader. Olivier knew that without being trained by their mother, the rescued cheetah cubs would be confined to a life in cages
That's when he decided to become a surrogate mother to the five cubs. In order to become one of them, he spent a lot of time studying their body language and mannerisms. His mission was not only to teach them how to survive, but to also establish a leader, who would help the group, when they were ready to go back to the wild.
Last week, almost four years after the cubs were rescued, Olivier was finally ready to release them. With Ra, the smallest but most intelligent of the cubs, leading the pack, the five were allowed to wander off into the Namibrand Nature Reserve, six hours southwest of Namibia's Capital, Windhoek . While nobody knows if the cheetahs will be able to survive on their own, the chances are much greater then they would have been, if the cubs had been raised alone in the forests.
The entire saga of the cubs leading up to the final release, has been recorded in a British television documentary dubbed The Cheetah Man, which was aired in England last week, and will hopefully make its rounds to other parts of the World soon. Meanwhile enjoy the preview below.