On Sunday, we trapped two wild male cheetahs who have been hanging around the CCF facilities, to put a GPS satellite collar on one and do a medical workup on both. I came to know these cheetahs at the beginning of 2008. I always used to see tracks, and then one day we saw these two males near the offices. We're not used to seeing wild cheetahs so close, so at first we thought they were two of our cheetahs that had escaped! They started scent-marking the walls of the office building as a territorial behavior. Because they were living so close to so many people, we had to be able to track them.
We set out cage traps on Thursday but left them open so the cats could pass through and get used to them. On Saturday night we activated the traps. The traps were so close to us that I actually heard the gates shut when the cats entered the traps in the middle of the night. Very early the next morning, I checked from a distance and could see that the gates were shut. We moved the cats into crates at about 9 a.m. and took them to the clinic for a biomedical and physical exam and to fit one with a GPS satellite collar. Part of the workup involves weighing. These were the heaviest cheetahs I have ever seen. One weighed 61 kilograms (134 lbs.) and the other was 51 kilos (112 lbs.)!
To monitor them as they woke up from the sedation, we kept them at the clinic until the next morning, Monday. That morning, we drove them out to their usual hunting grounds to release them. Jeff Corwin, who hosts shows on Animal Planet and the Food Network, and a film crew were on hand to film the cheetahs' release. The release went exactly as it should—the cats dashed out of the crate and into the open savannah. When we next tracked them, they had traveled about 10 km away. We were worried that they were leaving us, but they were spotted this morning in CCF's "big field" and seem to be heading back to CCF's headquarters again.
In the photo (courtesy of Drew Gagne), Jeff Corwin and I are on top of the crates as one of the cheetahs darts out.
By the way, the Jeff Corwin show that features CCF is called "100 Heartbeats" and will air on MSNBC on Nov. 22.