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Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Shiraz's mystery cubs

We sure were surprised in September when, during our daily feeding of cheetahs, Shiraz arrived with four cubs behind her! They were about 5-6 weeks of age, the time when cubs begin to follow their mothers from the den. As we dated back the birth, we noted that on 14 July Shiraz did not come out to get her food. We did not take this as a problem, as the next day she was there as eager as ever. And, where did these cubs come from? We knew that as well.

For many of you who came to one of my talks during my US and UK tours, you will remember that during our initial camera trapping study, where we were calibrating the cameras, we got some great photos of two male cheetahs. One was missing part of his tail, and what remaining of it looked very infected. So, we set a cage trap and caught him; we named him Bob. Bob went to the veterinarian where his tail was amputated, and was under heavy anesthesia when we put him back into a holding pen, next to the fence where we had set a trap to catch his brother, whom we named Einstein.

We normally would have put Bob in a capture cage to help in catching his brother, but we could not put him in anything smaller because of his recently amputated tail. The next morning, Einstein was caught and Bob was out in the 64-hectare camp with our female cheetahs. We were able to get all the females into holding pens and then darted Bob to move him and his brother to our quarantine pens. We collected sperm on Einstein, who was sterile, so we were hopeful Bob was too! But, exactly 93 days later, cubs were born to Shiraz. We can only be thankful that none of our other females were in heat that day. In 2006, Shiraz and her cubs will be a part of a re-introduction research project. Last year we began this with two other females, Rosie and Daisy.

This year, the 4,000-hectare game-fenced area of Bellebenno has had 152 swing gates added, with a monitoring program to try to teach warthogs to use the swing gates instead of digging holes to come and go through the fence. If this project is successful, then Shiraz and her cubs will learn to hunt and live in this area with a hopeful future of life back in the wild. Other research for the new year includes continued monitoring of camera traps for ongoing censusing research on Namibia’s cheetah population. We thank all our volunteers and students for their help through out this past year!

--Dr Laurie Marker

Three new cubs arrive at CCF Namibia

There are now three more cheetah cubs at CCF. We have named them after the Hogwarts trio: Harry, Ron and Hermione. They joined us after a farmer who had picked the cubs up in the bush called us. His herder had heard the cubs calling out to one another for over a week.

The cubs were easily caught due to their young age and weak condition; however it took a second week to catch the third cub (Harry). It appeared that they had lost their mother and her fate remains unknown.

They are adapting very well to their home at CCF and they remind us daily why we are doing what we do - cheetah conservation, so cheetahs can live free! Importantly, orphan cheetahs need proper housing and care, and because of the success in our awareness, we are receiving more concerned calls such as this from farmers.

Sadly, the cost of caring for these orphans results in less funding for our research and conservation programs for the wild cheetahs. For this reason, I would really like to ask all of you, our cheetah friends from all over the world, to help us share the responsibility for the care of cheetahs such as these.

As we reach the end of 2005, and as you plan your next year, I would really like to ask you to remember that you can help CCF by giving a live gift to a loved one by sponsoring one or more of the orphan cubs at CCF. To learn how to sponsor a cheetah please visit our Sponsorship page.

-- Dr Laurie Marker

Ethiopian cheetahs rescued!

For me, every day is a cheetah day, but this US Thanksgiving Day was one to remember. CCF's Patricia Tricorache and I had been working for several days prior to coordinate the rescue of two orphaned cheetahs in Gode, Ethiopia. The cubs, estimated at approximately 5 months of age, were illegally purchased at a local market for 50 birr (or $6) by a local hotel owner. We have learned that there is illegal catching of young animals in southern Ethiopia (especially carnivores), which we have found are often sold to buyers in the Saudi Peninsula.

These cubs were tied to the ground by an 8-inch rope, and one of the cubs had a severely infected eye. They were reported to CCF by concerned representatives of the US military Civil Affairs unit based in Gode, who were offered the cubs for $1,000. Fearing that offering any amount of money for the cubs would encourage more poaching and further decimate the cheetah population, and realizing that this was illegal, the US military personnel contacted CCF for assistance.

Through our extensive network, we were able to coordinate a group of Ethiopian officials and concerned individuals, helped by representatives of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, the US military unit, and the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program to confiscate the cubs and fly them to Addis for veterinary attention and proper care and housing. Both cubs were malnourished, and the male's severely infected eye will be reassessed as soon as he gains some weight and recovers from the stresses.

We cannot thank enough all the people who were involved in helping these cubs, especially the US soldiers and their families who took the time to find CCF on the Internet and report the cubs to us. CCF is also very grateful to all the US and Ethiopian officials, and to the members of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program, for having responded so efficiently and professionally to give those cubs a chance at a better life.

--Dr Laurie Marker