Eli Walker ’13 has, on more than one occasion, found himself eye to eye with the world’s fastest land animal. Walker served as an intern to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in 2011, which in turn led to an independent study position there in 2012. Last month, he received the Kenneth Cedegren Student Award from the New England Association for Cooperative Education and Field Experience (NEACEFE). The award is granted to a graduating senior who has successfully completed all intern or field experience assignments with an exemplary record of performance, and has also demonstrated personal or professional growth through the experience.
At the CCF, Walker was responsible for feeding, maintenance, data collection, basic medical procedures, facilitating cheetah runs and working with the public. As he gained experience, Walker’s responsibilities progressed to becoming one of the primary caretakers of CCF's ambassador cheetahs.
“Ambassador Cheetahs are what the CCF calls ‘education animals’ (cats used to help educate the public),” Walker noted. “Because of their purpose, it is very important for the cheetahs to have consistent contact so that they remain habituated to humans.”
As a double major in captive wildlife care and education and wildlife biology, and with his interest in a humanitarian calling, these highly competitive opportunities with the CCF were perfect for Walker on several levels.
“The CCF is the world’s leader in cheetah conservation and truly is a model organization for other conservation organizations around the world,” Walker said. Walker notes CCF’s close relationship and partnership with the local people of Namibia. “Working with an organization that focuses on the welfare of people as well as biodiversity was too good an opportunity to pass up. Their work is extremely successful and I knew that I would experience and learn things there that I probably wouldn’t anywhere else.”
The experience with the CCF helped reinforce what Walker hopes to be doing for the long-term. “I loved the work, the people and the purpose,” Walker said. “A world without nature is a world not worth living in, so I will do everything I can to help preserve our natural world.”
Walker was nominated for the Kenneth Cedegren award by Nicole Collins, career consultant and internship coordinator at Unity College and State Director for NEACEFE.
“Eli Walker was an exemplary intern at the Cheetah Conservation Fund and returned from his experience with a broad understanding of international conservation issues,” Nicole Collins said. "He has developed into a true professional and CCF ambassador. I am very proud of Eli’s accomplishments. He is hoping that his experience with the CCF might lead to a permanent position when he graduates in May 2013. This would the best possible ending to a successful internship.”