Carol Barrett is a UK-based wildlife artist with a love for cheetahs – an animal she feels so passionately about saving that she is donating 100% of her proceeds from her cheetah artwork to saving them in the wild. We spoke to Carol about what inspires her and her experiences with cheetahs in the wild and her visits to CCF in Namibia.
My inspiration as a wildlife artist comes from being with the animal itself and if I can observe wildlife in its own habitat, there is nothing more awe-inspiring.
Cheetahs, without question, have had a special place in my heart from early childhood, when the Director of Edinburgh Zoo let me join him as he led a young cheetah called ‘Scrap’ out for an early morning walk through the park. I was mesmerised and captivated by the cheetah’s beauty and grace right from that moment and this wonder undoubtedly shaped my destiny after leaving art college to follow my passion for art and animals. I was totally hooked and there was no going back ~ I had to be a wildlife artist!
I have been extremely fortunate to be able to sketch cheetahs in the wild and have savoured encounters with devoted mothers grooming their silver mantled kits and being able to watch cubs playing and learning vital life skills from their mother. Another incredible experience, which is etched into my memory, is being with a guide in northern Botswana, watching the sun go down, when three adult male cheetahs walked past the front of the truck, only 12 feet from where we stood. Instantly we became like silent statues and held our breath, as these iconic cats scaled a fallen tree, scent and scratch-marked the spot, before melting away as silently as they had appeared. It was a moment in time I felt truly humbled by and blessed to witness this wonderful encounter.
I have always deeply admired the cheetah’s breath-taking speed and agility, but I have also been greatly concerned that in giving up so much to be the fastest land mammal, their future is in peril, because of unfair competition from the stronger predators and the huge challenges from the pressures of increasing human population, conflict with farmers’ livestock and habitat loss.
I became aware of the excellent conservation work being done by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in 2000. In 2005 I heard that the Executive Director and Founder, Dr Laurie Marker was coming to the UK to raise awareness about CCF, which offered me the chance to invite Laurie to give a lecture at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. I decided to also arrange a fund-raising auction of some of my original cheetah paintings and approached some local businesses, who kindly lent their support to the event. It proved to be an outstanding lecture and was one of the best attended the zoo has ever held.
In 2006, I went to CCF in Namibia to be a volunteer and put my artistic talent to good use, being able to study, sketch and take action shots of the orphaned, rescued cheetahs at the centre. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn a great deal every aspect of CCF’s conservation work, which was making a positive impact, not only in Namibia, but also in other cheetah range countries. Since then I have felt committed to play my part by raising awareness and donating funds through the sale of my cheetah art to support CCF’s conservation programmes.
I cannot talk about CCF without mentioning ‘Chewbaaka’, who was a magnificent rescued cheetah that was hand-raised by Laurie as a tiny cub of only weeks old. Laurie could not have found a more impressive ambassador for CCF, as ‘Chewbaaka’ had the perfect temperament and possessed all the attributes that make a magnificent cheetah. They were the dream team for cheetah conservation, as Laurie is a heroine for cheetah conservation and in saving ‘Chewbaaka’ they were able to achieve great goals for CCF.
I am very much aware that for too many species time is running out and I need to make every effort to inspire others to care about the natural world. I believe wildlife art can move and even motivate the viewer to discover more about the natural world and therefore find they care about what’s happening to it. I feel it is imperative that I now use my artistic skills to not only pay homage to the cheetah, but to now give 100% of any sales back to the Cheetah Conservation Fund to help support its vital work to save this unique cat for future generations as I believe mankind will be diminished if the cheetah is lost forever.
The following artwork from Carol is currently available, and you can contact Carol through her website to make a purchase.
A huge thank you to Carol for such a generous contribution! Whoever gets their paws on these masterpieces will be very lucky indeed!