A roar opportunity

February 21, 2012

By Brigitte Graf ’13

Gabriella Flacke graduated from Bradley in 1997 with a double major in biology and German. Now, she is utilizing both majors as she works as a big animal veterinarian in a nation where many people speak German. 

Flacke lives in Namibia, a country in South Africa, where she works as a clinical veterinarian for the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). She cares for about 250 animals ranging from goats to livestock guarding dogs to, of course, cheetahs.

“Some of the captive cheetahs here are unable to be released back to the wild due to injuries or other circumstances; however, most are young, healthy animals that have been trapped by farmers and brought to CCF,” Flacke said. “Many of these cheetahs will soon be released back into the wild, and currently six are training to hunt live prey in a 4000-hectare game camp on CCF property.”

Interestingly enough, Flacke also makes use of her skills in the German language on a daily basis.

“Namibia was a German colony before WWI, and there are still a great number of German-speaking people here. It's almost like Namibia is a mini-Germany within Africa,” Flacke said. She sees a heavy German influence in architecture and the culture. “I even attended Oktoberfest, and it could have been something straight out of a small German village in Bavaria.”

After graduating from Bradley, Flacke attended veterinary school at the University of Georgia. During that time, she participated in several internships in South Africa.

“I fell in love with southern Africa and returned every year after graduating from vet school to volunteer with the wildlife vet there, who had become a good friend as well,” Flacke said.

In the years that followed, she practiced veterinary medicine in California, earned a master’s degree in Veterinary Wildlife Conservation Medicine through Murdoch University in Australia, and then resided in Portland, Oregon, where she continued her own practice. In May 2011, Flacke came across a job opportunity with the CCF and pursued it.

“Namibia is is a cultural blend of German, Afrikaan (a South African culture) and the local Namibian,” Flacke said. “In some ways it is a very modern country. However, there are also incredibly remote and isolated areas in this country where people are quite poor and have hardly any contact with the ‘modern’ world.  It is a land of contrasts filled with friendly people and daily challenges.” 

In the future, Flacke intends to begin a Ph.D. project through the University of Western Australia. For now, though, she is enjoying her work in Namibia and her life in the one-of-a-kind culture that surrounds her.

“Probably the most important quality to have when living here is adaptability,” Flacke said. “A favorite saying when things go wrong is, ‘This is Africa!’”