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Unlikely

Maybe you can’t predict it, but you can still take a photo of it.

Going for a drive with Adara the cheetah in Hoesdpruit, South Africa. Photo by Michelle W.

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If you’d met me at a party in 2017 and asked me, “Michelle, what’s the likelihood you’ll one day find yourself sitting in the bed of a decrepit pickup truck with an unsecured cheetah?” my answer would have been “Slim to none!” Emphasis on the “none.”

And then I spent January 2018 in Hoesdpruit, South Africa, volunteering at an animal rehabilitation center.

a young make cheetah lays calmly in the back of a pickup truck and looks directly at the camera

Going for a drive with Adara the cheetah. (Photo by Michelle W.)

Adara can’t be re-released into the wild, so he’s being habituated to humans and will become an ambassador animal, going with rehab staff to teach people about threats to local wildlife and how animals can be relocated safely. That means lots of interaction with new people and practice going on car rides to new places, and that’s how we ended up in the pickup truck together.

It’s a funny thing; when you do find yourself in a truck with a cheetah, and you scratch his ears while he purrs, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking “This cheetah could totally eat my face right now,” even thought it’s undeniably true. He purrs, and you scratch, and you feel somehow more and less human, simultaneously — more alive, less siloed in your non-cheetah-scratching human life. It’s an Experience, with a capital E.

My point here is threefold:

  1. Never say never.
  2. If you ever have the opportunity to hang out in a pickup with an apex predator*, go for it.
  3. This week’s challenge is to share a photo of something unlikely.

An object or person in an unlikely place, an unpredictable experience, a serendipitous accident: we want the expected.

* Obviously this advice only applies if the animal in question has been acclimated to humans and you’re with trained animal handlers. Please don’t get into a minivan alone with a wild tiger or something. That should be a thing I don’t need to say, but you can never be too safe on the internet.

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