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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Update from the NamibRand Cheetahs

9 February: The boys have done us proud this time, as I can confirm their kill from the other night was an adult male blesbok. As you know, they are alien here and they culled them for the original cheetah food. However it was believed that six males escaped and avoided the death sentence. Looks like there is only five now. They must have eaten most of it as there was very little left, although the jackals and vultures had been on it already. I'll send all the info with tonight's report.

Mike and Anne Scott also discovered another fresh kill covered in vultures a little way up the road. They couldn't get to it so I'll check it out this afternoon. I don't think it was the boys but has Mom been up that way at all? It was adjacent to the Kopje sort of North-West of Keerweder. It could have been anything, even something that drowned in the rain, but who knows. I'll pass it on when I find out. -James

8 February: Hey great news! My suspicions seem to be correct, the boys must have hunted! We found them this morning a little after six, as usual, pacing around the front (Northern) side of the pen. When they walked past us however, we could see their bloated bellies and what was left of the blood on their faces, paws etc. The satellite hasn't given us any info yet but as soon as I get an idea of some possible locations they may have spent time at last night I'll check it out. I can't believe how well they're doing! I'm guessing they must have used last night's very bright moon to their advantage. They may not be "traditional" but they're sure making it work for them. I'll be in touch with the detail soon! Until then, enjoy your Sunday. -James

5 February: The boys did it again! A kill this morning witnessed by James - another oryx (preferred prey, no doubt) but this time a yearling so they were able to have a good feed. 53cm long horns and a body length of 1.6m, so a decent size. They had continued walking overnight to the grass plains towards Wolwedans. They have now made 3 kills in this area, so hopefully they are starting to associate this area with hunting. James found them this morning on the move already. Just before 7, they settled down under a tree to rest. A group of 3 oryx (2 adults and the juvenile/sub-adult) wandered a little too near to the cheetahs. BANG! They exploded out of the blocks like the Jamaican relay team and tripped the younger individual after almost 200m (excuse the artistic license there, James). Kia was again the hero, as he went straight for the jugular. Lots of feasting had. In the afternoon, they then slowly headed back to the pens and made it there after dark. Third kill this week, so the boys are definitely becoming more independent. We have halted food rations for now, and we shall see whether they will need them again. Hopefully not! It's been a long process to get the cheetahs to this stage, but a lot of hard work by all. Well done! Chris

4 February: After the amazing day yesterday with the kill and meeting the females, we will forgive the boys a lazy day hanging around with their favourite females…only the two girls didn't show themselves all day. The boys did start moving South-west into the plains towards Wolwedans but only once darkness had fallen!All the best,Chris

3 February: What an incredible day! Firstly, James found the cheetahs on a carcass this morning. Another young oryx - probably somewhere between 6 months and 1 years old (horn length of 34cm). A great start. James leaves them feeding in the morning and heads home, at which point he finds another carcass, that was probably killed by the boys. Using satellite data and the aging of decay, I place the kill on the 19th January - I have marked the spot on the map below. The boys then move back towards the holding pens during mid-morning. James finds them in the afternoon, and soon after they move and join the wild female and cubs. James is able to observe from 40m without scaring her away. All 8 of the cheetahs are lying happily under the same tree and there seems to be no attempt by the boys to drive the cubs away. The boys stay with her for 30 mins before heading back to Sandgrouse for a drink. End the evening at the holding pen. An historic day I'm sure you'll all agree. They moved 9km over the day - above average for these five!!! All the best, Chris.

NamibRand boys - Day 57

1 February: After the promise of yesterday, the cheetahs slowly trundled back to the female holding pens this morning. A quick drink was had at Sandgrouse waterhole. They then did the usual, pacing, marking, fighting around the pens. They even seemed more interesting in the females than their food this evening!! Only two of them actually came to eat - a little worrying.

31 January: Hurrah! Activity at least. The boys ended up walking 9 whole km today! They started off at the female pens in the morning, then moved east towards the riverbed and from here had an attempt at hunting Oryx. Alas, they broke their cover too early and gave the herd (60 animals) too much of a head-start. They then proceeded to head south and eventually south-east. We shall see where tomorrow takes us…

30 January: Lots of fighting over the two females today. They drank at the farmhouse and also got fed some oryx. Some of them don't seem to be particularly hungry.

27 January: The boys have now been 50 days on their own (well, not quite on their own) for this second release attempt. Again, found this morning hanging around the female pen this morning before moving up onto Dino Hill. In the afternoon, they started walking towards Losberg. They even celebrated their 50th day of freedom with an attempt at hunting. A pretty foolish attempt I might add. One of the boys decided, let's try and hunt a herd of 50 Zebra. There was always going to be one loser in that contest, and they ended up giving up the chase after 200m. They slowly moved back towards the females. A grand total of 6.8 km walked today - they must be exhausted!!!

Just to sum things up: 50 days, 19 witnessed hunting attempts, 6 successful hunts, and probably a few more that have been missed by our fantastic observers. Also, a lot of time spent flirting with the girls.

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