Sorry for the delay. Blogger wouldn’t take all the pictures and this message just got returned to us.
As you might have learned from on our most recent eLetter, Hershey, Toblerone, Nestle and Chanel were collared last June in preparation for their soft release in CCF’s 4,000-ha Bellebenno research game camp as part of CCF’s research into cheetah re-introductions. The camp serves as a “training ground” for orphaned cheetahs that show good potential for release. The four females will be monitored and fed by CCF staff as they learn how to hunt. Once they are hunting successfully, they will go to the next stage: their final release into the wild, still under the careful monitoring of CCF staff.
As planned, the three Chocolate Girls and Chanel were released on the 1st September and we just received some pictures from Rob in Namibia. We released the females about noon. The release went well – three of the females went out right away following the feed truck with an oryx in the back. One of the females helped James by pulling the carcass out of the back of the truck and grabbed it by the throat in a strangulation hold. The fourth cheetah, Nestle did not figure out how to get out of the one hectare pen at Bellebenno but finally we were able to coax her out an hour or so later at which point she joined the other three girls who were already gorging on the oryx. James, Matt and Ryan stayed out all night to monitor them. James will be training several of our staff in tracking and following. Chanel stayed by the oryx near Bellebeno and the three Chocolates moved to one of the waterholes called Hog’s Heaven. All look to be OK.
We also have Steve Austin here – a dog trainer from Australia, and we took the dogs over to the cheetah release pens to look for scat. He has spent over 20 years training detection dogs throughout the world – dogs trained for drugs, plants and fruit at the airports, as well as conservation detection dogs. Steve is training Carolyn who has been working with the dogs for several months, as well as training the dogs, Isha and Finn. I am watching everything I can, and am filming the training process. I went out today with them into the Big Field. Isha is amazing – she was focused and sat like a star. Finn is not as structured – but he works the area better and finds what he is looking for – they are great and Steve Austin is amazing.
That was the same day we received a call from the Ministry in Otjiwarongo for a confiscation of the four cubs in Okakarara. The cubs are about one month old, two males and two females. They were caught by a communal farmer a week ago. .
Dr. Steve O’Brien, Chairman of our CCF USA Board, arrived last week and gave a talk at the University of Namibia on Friday.
Last week we also had a group from the University of Namibia and the Ongongo College to learn mainly about bush harvesting and Bushblok. The group was amazing – all biology and agriculture students – one of our past students and then staff – Fanuel Ekondo – was a part of the group! We also had a professor from South Africa who came to learn about our goat dairy program and develop a grant with me to grow this project.
Below are Rob Thomson’s photos and comments about the release. I will post pictures of the four cubs, the dog trainer and Uschi’s AI puppies separately.
Laurie and all
Chanel and Toblerone walk cautiously down the passageway to freedom. At this point they are already past the inner gates, and stand just a few short metres from the wild.
This is the moment we've all been waiting for, as after years of preparation, the ever-bold Chanel, becomes the first to leave the pen and enter the world of a wild cat.
Chanel stays in the lead, her eyes fixed on the fat gemsbok carcass on the back of the bakkie before her.
Hershey (on left), Chanel, and Toblerone are free at last! Dr. Marker is visible on the extreme right as she watches a dream coming true.
Hershey samples the sweet air of freedom as she gazes into a distance that for one is not marred by a fence.
Having been the first to feed, Chanel (on right) pauses to look around, while Toblerone and Hershey continue to dig in.
The stage is set. In the foreground, Hershey, Toblerone and Chanel continue to eat, while behind them our videographer, Ryan, films the occasion. Ryan will be joining chief tracker, James Slade, for the next two weeks, while he follows every move of our newly released ladies.