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Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Cheetah Update: Sandy

From your last update on Sandy, we’d like to tell you a bit more about her and what she has been doing over the past six-month period.

As you already know, Sandy shares an enclosure with her adopted sisters Blondi, Dusty and Leia. These cheetahs are excellent ambassadors to CCF and two to three times a week they thrill school groups, visitors and our own volunteers by demonstrating their athletic skills! All four girls chase a lure, showing incredible maneuverability while trying to snatch the lure in a flat-out run. Sandy is one of our best runners. When she's successful in capturing the rag used as a lure, she is often reluctant to give it up, opting instead to drag it off the course, string and all.

Beginning in January, all the CCF resident cheetahs undergo their annual health examination, performed by our Veterinarian, Dr. Arthur Bagot-Smith. These health checks are part of the Namibian permit requirements and also give us the opportunity to check on the health of our cheetahs. During the exam, each cheetah undergoes a clinical examination, from head to tail to ensure all joints are working and internal organs, such as the kidneys feel normal. They are also checked for external parasites, treated if necessary and vaccinated for feline distemper and rabies. Blood is also collected and these samples are screened for viruses and overall health to make sure that all organs, such as the liver, are functioning well.

In addition, each cheetah is endoscoped. This particular procedure forms part of a long-term research project to monitor the possible development of a disease called gastritis and the helicobacter that is associated with it. Gastritis is one of the diseases that plague captive cheetahs around the world, while the free-ranging cheetahs seem not to suffer from this debilitating disease. By monitoring the cheetahs that arrive at CCF and are unable to be released, we are able to see if they develop the disease after a period of time in captivity. It is possible that stress is one of the causative agents in this disease, possibly affected by factors such as exposure to humans, pen size, exercise levels and diet. Our cheetahs have relatively low exposure to humans, live in large enclosures, get lots of exercise and are on an unprocessed meat and bone diet, all of which really seem to agree with them, as they are in excellent health.

Sandy is a smaller than average cheetah (average is 36 kilograms) weighing in at 34 kilograms. Even though she weighs a bit less than the other females, her weight is consistent and fitting her small frame and build. During her physical, she also had all the burrs and stickers combed out, and a one of our CCF volunteers, who is also a dentist, Dr. Larry Friedman, cleaned her teeth and confirmed that all her teeth were looking great!

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