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Monday, 7 May 2007

Amani - April 2007

Greetings from Namibia! Quite a lot has happened since your last update:

In mid-February, Amani, along with the rest of our resident cats, underwent her annual physical exam. As part of an ongoing study of gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) in captive cheetahs, several gastric biopsies were taken using an endoscope. This year for the first time, staff and volunteers were able to see inside of the esophagus and stomach via the endoscopic camera using a monitor. She was also given her annual vaccines against rabies and other feline diseases and Frontline was applied to help control flies and ticks. Amani now weighs 36.5 kilograms (80.3 pounds), gaining an impressive 6 kilograms since July.

In addition to the annual physical exam and in conjunction with our ongoing research collaborations, Amani was also chosen to be part of a study assessing renal disease in captive cheetahs. Renal disease is considered to be the leading cause of death in captive cheetahs. In a study of 29 zoos in the USA, renal disease was found in 82% of cats; in South Africa, the prevalence rate is 80%. There were three age groups: young, middle, and old; Amani, at almost 3 years old, was in the young group.

As you know, Amani came to us in mid-June of last year. Following her quarantine period, she was put into the 64 hectare enclosure at our farm Bellebeno. Unfortunately, despite a month of “training” in a small holding pen, she was still not accustomed to our feeding method in that big enclosure. We drive a pickup truck (bakkie) through the pen and call the cheetahs. They all come eagerly and we encourage them to run behind the car for some exercise before tossing a piece of meat to each of them. Amani did not come to the car every day. Even though she had missed out a number of meals and had grown thinner, she was still extremely alert and bold. As the weight loss increased, however, we darted her and put her back into a holding pen, fitted with a radio collar so that we could track her when she went back into the big enclosure. For two months, we fed her in the holding pens and monitored her health and weight. During this time, she learned to associate the car with food.

She was released her back into the 64 hectare enclosure after she had gained sufficient weight. We only had to track her twice when she didn’t come for food. However, she is now one of the first to come to the car, as well as one of the best and most eager runners. She isn’t afraid of the other cats, people, or the car; she simply didn’t associate the car with food. She is also bold towards the other cats, sometimes grabbing food from them, as well as giving them a smack when they get too close. During the exam, we removed her radio collar. She has gotten many comments on her beauty, with some volunteers going so far as to say that she is CCF’s “supermodel” cat. What a beautiful success story!

Thank you again for sponsoring Amani and we hope that we can count on your continued support in the future.

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