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Monday, 7 May 2007

Merlot - April 2007

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

In mid-February, Merlot, along with the rest of our resident cats, underwent his 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. He was also given his annual vaccines against rabies and other feline diseases and Frontline was applied to help control flies and ticks. He gained 3 kilograms since last year and now weighs 45 kilograms (99lbs).

In previous years for annual exams, we always darted Merlot since he doesn’t go into a box like some of our younger and less aggressive cats. However, this year we made use of squeeze cages that were designed and built last July to use for a study by the Smithsonian Institute. These cages are constructed of iron bars welded together, with doors made of chain link fencing. A wooden floor prevents any foot injuries and a movable side panel allows us to move them to one side, helping in transferring them into a box for transport to the clinic. This is much safer and less stressful for the cats.

A few days before the exams neither he nor his coalition mate Klein came up to eat. We drove around his enclosure and were surprised to see a wild cheetah that they had been sniffing through the fence. Their neighbors Josie and Gremlin were also sniffing with their wild neighbor. After the wild cheetah ran away, they started going up to their eating area, they focused on food and everything returned to normal.

In October, a jackal somehow made its way into the pen, but managed to find its own way out. Then in December, a warthog got into the pen but, made another hole on the opposite side of the fence to make his escape. A walking inspection of the fence line was done and two holes were found, and immediately repaired.

In mid-January, a controlled burn cleared the pen of excess built up grass, restoring the land. The grass has since re-grown, bringing with it a few flowers, including some beautiful white lilies that either hadn’t been there previously or were choked out by the thick grass. The cats now have a lot of space to move freely under trees and between bushes. It also makes mowing in their pens much easier!

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

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