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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Last minute info on the NamibRand boys


A very interesting afternoon! The boys have moved off in the direction of where the last kill was made. They stayed almost dead centre of the large field making sighting very difficult. Just before we lost sight of them, one of them decided to chase a large group of maybe +/- 50 Burchell's Zebra. After giving them a good run, he gave up. Soon after we did lose sight and although we raced around to the road on the other side (the Wolwedans road) it was getting too dark to spot them. I tried tracking them but the signal was weak so I believe they are still right in the middle somewhere. We are going to leave earlier tomorrow to try and catch up with them. -James.

As for the wild female, she seems to be settling into the area around Keerwedeer. James actually saw her yesterday with her two cubs. Apparently, all looking healthy. She spent quite some time (almost 20 hours) at one spot so it might be interesting to see if she killed anything there.

NamibRand - Day 49 Update on the Boys from James

Lots of aggression between the boys today. Always involving the girls. Ra and Misty seem to have a thing. She will often walk over to him when he's alone and they even had a brief nuzzle through the fence today. This is the only time I've actually seen contact between one of the females and a male.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Growing Up

littleC and the BoysOur two young brothers Ngungu and Shunga are continuing to eat in front of visitors and are growing up to be very good CCF ambassadors. They have even started to copy their older pen mate littleC by climbing up the tree inside their enclosure and posing proudly for photos. littleC has also had to contend with increased cheeky behaviour from the two mischievous cheetahs who often try and gang up on their adopted older brother and try and steal his food! At the moment littleC is still too big and swiftly swipes the bothersome twosome away, although for how much longer littleC can maintain his dominance over the fast growing youngsters, only time will tell!

BellaIt has been an important week for three of our other adolescent cheetahs which saw the sad but necessary separation of brother and sister. Siblings Obe-Wan and Padme came to CCF in September 2008, they had been trapped by a farmer who kept them for two months with the aim of capturing the mother. However, the mother never showed and CCF were called to collect them. Upon arrival at CCF Obe-Wan and Padme were placed in an enclosure with Anakin, another of our orphaned cubs and they got on extremely well. Anakin was named after the character from the Star Wars movies and provided the inspiration for naming Obe-Wan and Padme. All three are very feisty characters and have formed quite a bond over the last few months, however they are all around a year of age and the two boys will soon start looking at Padme in a very different light and with it being illegal to breed cheetahs in Namibia it is time to separate them. Therefore Anakin and Obe-Wan have been moved into an enclosure next to two of our young males Chester and Omdillo. They will be able to see and meet each other through the fence and it is hoped that all four will soon become good friends and form a formidable coalition. Padme's future is not yet determined; our original plan was to put her in our enclosure housing six other females, however, we picked up a new arrival this week that may provide us with another option. My colleague Chris Gordon and I traveled to a farm just past Okahandja and collected a beautiful 4-5 month old female. The owner of a farm rescued the small cub, whom we have named 'Bella,' from a neighboring farm where she was being held in a small chicken coup. The caring farmer had taken Bella to the vet for initial vaccinations. We found Bella in excellent condition inside a well kept dog pen but persuading her to enter our cheetah box proved quite tricky and Chris eventually had to man up and enter the pen armed with a towel which he was able to place over Bella and grab her by the scruff of the neck. The fate of Bella's mother is unknown, but being separated from her at such a young age means that Bella will not be able to be released back into the wild as she has been denied the essential life skills that her mother would have taught her. I will of course keep you informed on Bella's progress and whether or not she becomes a new pen mate for Padme.

Our 17 livestock guarding dog puppies are also growing up fast and preparations are underway for puppy day on the 14th of February when their new owners will come to CFF to collect them. On that day the farmers will be shown around CCF's Model Farm and attend several information sessions where they will learn how to look after and train their puppy correctly, as well as get the chance to ask CCF staff any questions they may have.

Well, that's all for now, see you next time!


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Latest wild female positions

Here are the latest positions for the wild female in NamibRand. Blue pin is current location. She is now in the sand dunes to the west of the reserve, almost on the border with

National Park



Meantime, the five boys spent the day hanging around by the female's pen (Rosy and Misty). They only moved 1.5 km all day. They were fed half a springbok in the evening.


Update from NamibRand

18th January

Hi guys, just a quick update. It took us awhile to find the boys this morning. We were getting signals from all over the place and as it turns out they were around the base of the mountains at Wolwedans. As we just picked up their tracks, one of them (90% sure it was Kia) exploded from behind a bush and at about two hundred meters took down a large-looking Oryx. The Oryx had tried to turn sharply to the left but Kia was too quick and turned fast enough to trip up the Oryx's hind legs. Within seconds he had it and the others were there to help. They managed to keep off around 70 other Oryx that came to the calls of the dying. The Oryx stood by helplessly as the boys enjoyed the second kill of the week. We managed to see it all and will easily get back this afternoon to get all the details for you. Hope you enjoy this good news and it sees you well. I'll send you the rest tonight! -James

Later in the evening...

The boys spent the entire day by the kill. I tired to get close once as they were resting by a tree but as the saw me approach the quickly returned to the sight and started feeding again. I will get more information and hopefully some sample as soon as possible. I have been taking photos as well but my camera isn't very good. I'll see what I can do on that front however. Very excited to witness another great tackle by them let's hope they keep it up! -James.

Ps We had some guests from Wolwedans lodge today, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were keen on learning about the tracking process. The Wolwedans lodge guides were having a great time too. Great day altogether though!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Reporting from NamibRand

Monday, 5th January

Anne-Marie and I make the long drive down to NamibRand. We take 4 wild cheetahs with us - a mother and three cubs. A farmer had trapped them near Gobabis, complaining of livestock losses. They are ideal candidates to go to NamibRand in order to add a few females into the population. Who knows? We may even get some breeding with our five boys at some stage.

The five boys have been doing well since the last update. They briefly left the reserve at one stage but returned two days later. They even gave us a Christmas present by hunting an old male Red Hartebeest. They have also hunted an oryx yearling so that takes their kill count up to four in four weeks. We are obviously having to feed them in between kills but we hope that this will get less and less.

Before we could release the wild mother and cubs, we had to dart one of the boys to use his collar on the female. Lindt was chosen as we needed his satellite collar. Tracking the wild cheetahs once released will be very difficult so we will have to rely on data being downloaded from the satellites. Lindt also has a slight limp so we took the opportunity to see whether there was a thorn stuck in his foot.

The darting went well and we removed the collar and placed it onto the mother. Lindt looks to have a slight sprain in his “wrist” so we hope that it sorts itself out, otherwise we may have to get a vet down at a later date. The mother and cubs were placed in a holding pen next to Rosie and Misty for two days.

We took a springbok carcass down to the holding pens and left it in the doorway of the wild mother and cubs’ pen. We fixed the gate open and retreated up the hill. The cheetahs took about 2 hours to leave the pen, before eating the carcass for about an hour and a half. They slowly wandered off and are still on the reserve at the moment. We will be eagerly watching the satellite data each day to see where they settle. It would be amazing if they stay in the area - there is a pretty good chance as there is plenty of game around at the moment.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

P.S. From Laurie Marker to Matt's posting re New Year Begins

P.S. The release of the cheetahs at the NamibRand went well - they are in a 2 ha holding pen to get an idea of their surroundings. The mother was fitted with a satellite collar, so we will be able to track her whereabouts via computer, as she is wild and we will never see her again after her release! The other five males are doing well and they have been hunting some on their own - however, we are supplementary feeding them regularly to keep them in good health so they can learn to hunt in a strong condition.

Monday, 5 January 2009

A New Year Begins

Happy New Year! I hope you all have had a great Christmas and enjoyed your New Year celebrations. For me it has been my first Christmas away from home and it couldn't have been more different to what I'm used to! On Christmas morning instead of enthusiastically opening presents with my sister under the Christmas tree and tucking into my mum's delicious Christmas dinner I found myself weighing puppies and driving around Africa checking cheetah enclosure fences. Being English, experiencing Christmas with the hot weather we are currently having also took a bit of getting used to!

Those of us still here at CCF enjoyed a rather different Christmas dinner round our Director's house and instead of turkey enjoyed home made cheese burgers expertly made for us by Bruce, our general manager. The highlight of an enjoyable evening came when CCF's newest residents Phoenix, Quasar and Soraya were allowed to join in the celebrations. The three young but rapidly growing cheetahs had a great time running around saying hello to all the new faces around them.

I celebrated the new year in the nearby town of Otjiwarongo with my fellow keeper Kate, dog man John and party animal groovy Gunther! Gunther is our agricultural and training course manager and a local Namibian who was very keen to see in 2009 with a drink in hand and plenty of cheesy Afrikaans party songs! We ended up at a pop concert where to my delight Onyoka, my favourite Namibian band, were playing. We had a great time but alas we couldn't stay out all night as we all had early starts and lots to do the following day.

The Christmas period saw an increase in the sightings of the two wild males that like to hang around the CCF centre, one of which has a CCF radio collar fitted. They were seen almost every night patrolling up and down the fence line of the enclosures housing some of our very beautiful female cheetahs! They succeeded in scaring me good and proper one night whilst I was walking along one of the fore mentioned enclosures towards our office when they jumped out of no where only 10 feet in front of me! Rather than seeing this attention as a nuisance the females actually seem to enjoy it and often engage in a spot of flirting.

I am pleased to say that all 17 puppies are still doing really well and have reached the stage when they can start to eat normal food, which I'm sure will be a big relief to their exhausted mothers Tylee and Uschi. After all, having 9 hungry mouths competing for your attention 24/7 can't be much fun!

The four wild cats I mentioned in my previous blog are on their way to the Namibrand Nature Reserve as I speak. The 9 hour drive will mark the end of what must have been a very traumatic time for the mother and her 3 cubs but happily they will soon be back in the wild where they belong and with Namibrand they have the advantage of living in a protected area. The cubs (2 males and one female) are at an age when they will soon leave their mother. The mother will be fitted with a radio collar and her progress monitored. I am sure she will do well especially as she has raised 3 cubs to independent age which shows she is made of the right stuff.

So 2008 ended on a happy note, lets hope it continues throughout 2009! Matt