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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Three Wild Cheetahs in a Trap Cage

On Wednesday, a farmer called with three cheetahs in a trap cage (photo). Since my life here in Namibia had not started as of yet as I just arrived from NY and London last night, I decided that this would be a good time to load up staff (Gail, Kat, Rick) for training and we went to pick up the cheetahs.

We thought that they were adult males from what the farmer had said. The farm is on the other side of the Waterberg near Okakarara area. He was a very nice farmer and willing to talk about behavior and cheetah removal and livestock losses. We had a long afternoon, collecting the cheetahs, and getting back to CCF well after dark. I think Gail, Rick and Kat learned a lot as to how to give questions to farmers and how to get not only answers but cooperation and friendships.

We worked them up on Thursday, and the farmer had hoped that he could have come to view the workup, however, he did not make it. As we worked on each of the cats, the story of what might have been happening with these cheetahs came to light.

The first and second cheetahs were young males – about two years old. They were good weights, and in very good condition. We collected sperm from them, however the first male had underdeveloped sperm and his brother had a bit better sperm that we did freeze in our genome resource bank. The third cat was a female, and that's when then we realized that the three were a mother and her nearly adult male cubs. She was in good overall condition, however, she has a broken canine tooth and her feet were raw from the capture cage.

They have been put in our quarantine pens and we have made a dentist appointment for the female for next week. We hope that they will be ready for release again in the next couple weeks. We are eager to see how the pads on her feet heal when we work on her tooth next week.

Cheeta purrs!


Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Eco-Team Report

The Rhino Tracking is going well. Our Earthwatch volunteers seem to enjoy the activity very much and found it very educational. I have managed to ID all 5 rhinos in the past month, Rob will confirm this when he returns from vacation. Picnic Dam is completely dry and cattle dam is starting to recede quickly. We managed to get a good location fix on Rhino 4 yesterday, which is good since it has been a while with the receivers and transmitters acting up.
An Earthwatch Volunteer assists with checking camera traps.
The Bellebenno girls (Chanel, Toblerone, Hershey and Nestle) are proving to be successful hunters and have killed nine Eland calves in the week from the 18th to 25th. Matti is currently working on producing maps of their movement around Bellebenno (stay tunned for the next journal).

Swing Gates are going smoothly, not many holes have been spotted which means the animals have been using them.

Game Counts. Circuit counts around CCF property and a 12-hour Bellebenno waterhole count went ahead last week. The Earthwatch group seemed to enjoy them very much. We saw quite a few interesting animals on the night counts including bush babies, aardvarks and HiFi, a wild cheetah, which was very nice. Around 150 Eland were seen on the 12-hour waterhole counts, which is good considering the current hunting pressure on them by Chanel and the Chocolates.

I think that’s about it for now.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Livestock Guarding Dog Puppies Go to Work

Two more livestock guarding dogs were placed with Namibian communal farmers on Saturday the 23rd of October. The farms were visited before puppy day to ensure that the puppies’ new homes would be suitable and to meet the farmers that would take care of them. These two farmers (photo: Mr. Kavari and Mr. Katuuo) are from the eastern parts of Namibia. They had reported stock losses to cheetahs and other predators, including wild dogs and had applied to CCF for dogs to put with their livestock.

As usual, during puppy day, the farmers were trained on how to care for and train their new puppies to become successful guarding dogs (on photo: Gail training the farmers). They were further provided with information to take home on training livestock guarding dogs, predator-friendly farming practices and ways to reduce livestock losses to cheetahs and other predators. Both farmers were eager to learn about using guarding dogs effectively and selected their respective puppies from a litter of five.

The other three puppies will be placed on suitable farms in the near future.


Monday, 25 October 2010

Cheetah Keepers' Weekly Update

Enrichment week for our Centre Boys Ron, LittleC, Smart and Blonde started off with a simple scent test. Earthwatch volunteers Bobbi, Rosemary, Ed, Craig, and student intern Jamie started by making papier-mâché balls. Once dry, Blonde and Ron (our test cats) were exposed to the following scents: mixed herbs, 5 roses tea, rooibos tea, ginger, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, earl grey tea, and coriander. Ron and Blonde were separated from the others, and each other (to avoid fights and outside interference), as each scent ball was placed in their yard. Ron was less than impressed with the exercise and had zero reaction to all 9 scents, while younger Blonde showed interest in mixed herbs, coriander, and ginger. Even though LittleC was not directly exposed to the scent balls, he was rubbing his neck along the fence line, so keepers and volunteers suspect that some of the scents became airborne and he was reacting to those scents.
Building Ziggy

EW Volunteers and CCF's Keepers with Ziggy the Zebra
After determining what scents would provoke the best response, Earthwatchers started to construct Ziggy the Zebra out of cardboard and papier-mâché (photos). Once Ziggy was dry, and all scented-up, including 2 meat treats hidden inside his ears, he was placed next to the termite mound in the boys’ yard, all the while the boys were attentively watching Ziggy’s every move! When the gate was opened the boys cautiously approached their new pen-mate. Blonde and Smart were the first to reach Ziggy, and with the wind helping sway Ziggy back and forth, it made him seem even more life-like. Smart hissed, and Blonde pounced, grabbing Ziggy by the side, pulling him down on his butt. After that it was a series of tugs and pulls by Blonde, who then laid down on his side to paw at Ziggy’s legs while Smart and Ron licked and chewed Ziggy’s body. LittleC came over once more meat treats were added to Ziggy and proceeded to carry Ziggy around in his mouth, shake him from side to side. All in all it was an entertaining sight for staff and volunteers, and the cats appeared to also be enjoying themselves.
Blonde and Smart

This whole while, Tiny next door (photo) was pacing at the fence line, waiting for her turn at Ziggy! When the boys had exhausted themselves, Ziggy was moved into Tiny’s yard. After some hesitation, Tiny grabbed all her courage and approached the swaying Ziggy. A few seconds later Ziggy was being dragged off by the tiny cheetah (keep in mind Ziggy is bigger than Tiny!). And she was able to enjoy the zebra all to herself, as Hermione, Harry, and Polly were too busy being lounging cheetahs. Tiny thoroughly enjoyed the papier-mâché head as when she pounced on it, a meat treat popped out, and was quickly eaten up by Tiny.

Thankfully Ziggy was well constructed and, though missing one leg and a head, is still standing! With a little bit more work, Ziggy2 will make another appearance later next week!


Friday, 22 October 2010

The Bellebenno Cheetahs - 40 days of freedom!

After a nice break from the bush, I was more than looking forward to return to it along with seeing the cats. While I was away, they only killed a duiker and now have not eaten in three days. When Aymeric took me to where the girls were, I was very surprised. They are in a new area that is the farthest northeast they have ever been. The bush here is excessively dense, especially considering the wall of thorns these bushes make. The cats slept until 17:10 but while they slept, I did some paperwork for a while and after lunch Aymeric and I decided it a good time to clear a plot of land for Brown Hyena hair snare trap #2.We raked and dug  up any rooted grasses or loose branches in a triangular area between 3 large acacia bushes. We also had to cut off any intrusive branches (about 1m off the ground) from the bush. When it was cleared at about 16:05 we drove back to the girls to find them in the same spot. At this area it was extremely dense but the ground was sandy with no grasses. Eventually all 4 decided to get up. Aymeric and I followed closely because it was much easier to lose the girls in such thickly dense bush. We walked and walked and walked SSW behind the girls. At one point a large owl flew right over our heads in this one vast sandy clearing. Here laid so much sand and tall dead trees that poked from the grainy surface. This place could have been a beach if there was any water nearby. But the girls did not stop or rest or scent-mark; they just walked. The Chocolates did casually chase some zebra, but it was not a hunt. As the girls walked and occasionally got separated, they would frantically vocalize until they caught back up. This happened to Chanel once, Nestle once, and Toblerone once! It was not until 19:00 when Aymeric and I decided to go back to camp and leave the girls, who were still walking at this point. It was getting dark, quickly and we still had a 3.5km walk back to our vehicle (now the Mahindra). While we cooked dinner, Aymeric noticed an orange glow that came from over the Waterberg Plateau. We drove to check on the girls and called CCF to ask about the fire in the distance! We got a signal for the cats between two points and then we were told not to worry about the fire, for they are common this time of the year. The cats, from what our telemetry equipment told us was that they left the dense bush and returned back to their usual area of open bush closer to the main entrance of the Bellebenno Camp.

Day 38: Friday, 8 October 2010

Today started with an invitation from Chanel. She was on the side of the road bordering Frans Indongo property, sitting at the base of a termite mound and as we approached her, she just watched us before casually and slowly walking into the bush, following the Chocolate sisters. It was a refreshing sight to witness at 6:15 and even more refreshing to know that our presence does not seem to affect their natural behaviour too much. The cats walked Aymeric and I for about 2 hours before deciding to flop down in the shade. There were some scent-marking behaviours such as intense neck rubbing performed by Hershey, Chanel and Nestle. We also saw Toblerone scratch the base of a tree. Other than this, the cats slept in the shade all day, occasionally moving only to find more shaded areas.

Giving the cats more space now, we met up with CCF’s Senior Research Assistant and responsible for Ecology, Matti. We spent a couple hours with him and he taught us many different species of acacia trees. We requested for the giraffe surveys we will be doing in the near future. The botany lesson went very well and we learned a great deal. We even tried some pre-mature acacia gum for an Acacia leckii plant, but it was too bitter. Matti said that this was due to how early before the rains it was.

Later, we checked on the cats who have moved to a different tree. We marked their new location and left for lunch. Afterwards, we checked on hyena hair snare #1, but there were no tracks or hair caught on the barbed wire. When we got back to the girls later they have moved again! We found them about 10 minutes later and they began to move. They led us down the road near Frans Indongo’s property and eventually back into the bush. This area was nice and open. When the girls found a warthog family of 3, they sprinted towards it. The Chocolates would chase, and then be chased as the two adult warthogs protected their one and only piglet. Chanel was not too interested in the matter and just remained watching the scene from afar. When the Chocolates retreated, the warthogs would rejoin until Toblerone would chase after them again. She seemed very insistent on getting this warthog piglet, possibly because they have not eaten in four days. Usually when the girls chase warthogs, they do so in a playful manner, but today seemed different. Toblerone went after the piglet at least 4 times, but each chance led to being chased off by the defending adults. She kept persisting and finally we heard intense squealing. Hershey ran towards the noise only to be passed by Toblerone with the piglet in her jaws. The adult warthogs kept busy by trying to ward off Nestle and Hershey. As Nestle was being chased by one of the adults, Chanel and Hershey joined Toblerone, who had made a perfect cheetah kill. I was proud of Toblerone and happy the girls are feeding. It is also beneficial that they got a warthog because they are overpopulated here in Bellebenno. The girls started to feed and about 5 minutes later, Nestle joined, but there was no room on the carcass for her, so instead she flopped about 2m away. It was not until Hershey finished that Nestle got the opportunity to feed. The girls ate surprisingly peacefully, especially considering how small the carcass was. I found this amusing because before when they down a large zebra they reacted so aggressively, despite the fact that there was more than enough room for all four to feed. Now there is a miniscule piglet snack and they manage to devour it without any slaps or hisses! These girls still amaze me! Unfortunately, we had to leave them that night as they ate due to how dark it was getting. This warthog energy supplement is great for the girls and will possibly give them enough energy to make a larger kill in the next couple of days!

Day 39: Saturday, 9 October 2010

New record! Due to some problems with our tracking equipment, we did not manage to find the girls until around 7:40! We went to as many as 15 or so points attempting to find the girls, but we did not get any signal from anywhere for any of them! There were no tracks to follow either. It was not until we went back to the same spots more than once when we finally got a signal. We were near Sukkel Dam when we found all four cats walking down an older-looking road. They ended up taking us directly to the waterhole, which is somewhat predictable the day after eating. While on the way, I noticed what appeared to be fresh leopard spoor, but our attention was diverted to Toblerone, who was sprinting after a duiker! She ran right past our vehicle at top speeds! The other three cats had no clue what was happening and turned around to watch the chase. But once she was out of sight, they continued towards the waterhole. Chanel and Hershey began to drink (photo) and Nestle was close behind them. Toblerone, meanwhile, was unsuccessful with the hunt and was returning back to the others calling at the waterhole and now all four were drinking. Then one by one they flopped in the nearby sand. This was great because this is Aymeric’s and my favourite spot to watch the cats. As they rested, a large oryx came by and the girls did not budge. It got within 15m of our cats and they were not interested at all. But once they oryx caught sight of us, it froze then ran away. Later, a vehicle from CCF’s farm Jan Helpman approached. The girls, unfamiliar with the extremely loud car, ran into the bush; we followed them about 1km until they found refuge from the sun under the shade of two large bushes. And here they remained until about 17:45. We left the girls a lot in the meantime because it was so hot; we knew they would not move. We helped Kate feed the Bellebenno cats, we cleared another area for hyena hair snare #3 and then we checked #1 for any hair: nothing. But when we returned back to the cats, they seemed hot as they laying there with their mouths slightly opened, panting in the shade. When they got up, the cats led us back to the road near Frans Indongo. On the way we saw Chanel spray a tree and also witnessed Toblerone scratch the base of a tree. Once on the road, the girls would flop then walk into the bush then back to the road and flop again. They also occasionally would inspect the fence and look through it. At one time, Nestle ran along the road as she looked to the other side of the fence. But once again, they all met up and flopped. We left the girls as Chanel, Toblerone and Hershey all laid by one another in the road with Nestle flopped in the grass about 30m away from them. Later that night we got a signal from them; a very good indicator that they were nearby.

When we drove back to camp we saw lots of wildlife: zebra, eland (photo), oryx, warthog and even two honey badgers drinking at Hog’s Heaven (the best sighting of my life!!!) and even an African wild cat; a wonderful closing to Day 39 at Bellebenno.

Day 40: Thursday, 10 October 2010

It was a busy day for me, but not so much for the cats. We found the girls at 6:30 walking down the road near Frans Indongo. We watched as Toblerone head-rubbed a tree and scratched another with her front claws about 1m from the base of the tree. But oddly by 7:30, the cats already found a place to lie down and started to fall asleep! They got back up around 9:00 and moved to find better shade. Then Nestle and Hershey left Toblerone and Chanel and found even more shade about 20m away from each other. Around this time, we met with Matt to gather some supplies as well as exchange Aymeric for Kat, a CCF ecology staff member. I showed her the cats, which she has not seen since the release! We also met with Alan, one of the first EarthWatchers to ever come to CCF in 1996. He was completely amazed with the transformation and evolution of CCF. Back then there was only one farm and one cheetah (Chewbaaka), now there are eight farms and 61 cheetahs!

Kat and I checked the fence lines for any warthog holes or re-opens (we found quite a bit!) and then we checked on the brown hyena hair snare #1 but found not a single track. We discussed the idea of possibly baiting or scenting the trap in the centre to force the hyena to go under the hair snare! Meantime, the cats slept all morning and afternoon. It was not until 18:30 that they followed Chanel’s lead of getting up and walking. They led us to some open bush and would walk, pause and scan the area, then continue to walk. At one point Chanel and Toblerone chased a small group of adult eland. Chanel got within about 5m of them, but Toblerone was much further behind! Unfortunately, they did not get anything… Later Nestle made a quick attempt to chase down some oryx but also with little success. It was getting dark, so Kat and I retreated to camp. We returned at about 21:00 to get a signal for the girls and found them sleeping in the middle of detour road! We let them be and went back to camp again. Today made me slightly worried about the cats. They slept almost the entire day! This behaviour was to that exhibited just before we had to intervene and feed them the 2 red hartebeest legs… Having to supplement their diet 40 days after their release is like taking two steps back; I would rather push the girls more because we all know that they know how to hunt! I hope that the vast amount of rest they got today will supply them with enough energy to make a significant kill tomorrow. The 40th Day of Freedom was represented with resting and sleeping. Today also marked day 1 of phase 2 of research into wild behaviours that should be seen in captive cheetahs in zoos.

Day 41: Thursday, 11 October 2010

After yesterday’s slow pace, Kat and I were hoping for some excitement. The girls have to be hungry because their last two kills (since 4 Oct 2010) have been a duiker and a warthog piglet, not very extravagant meals. So we found the girls on the road by Frans Indongo’s land and quickly after they went roaming into the bush, with Kat and myself following closely. They walked us almost all morning and would occasionally flop for a few minutes before getting back up. In most instances, the Chocolates get up quickly after Chanel’s lead! Around 9:20 the girls were all flopped in some sand shaded by a large tree. This is when I pointed out to Kat the oryx mother and her calf ~50m away from the cats and us. Within seconds Nestle’s ears perked as she got up and began to stalk. Then she runs forward, followed by the other girls as well as Kat and myself. As we ran to catch up, you could hear the groaning of the calf. We then saw Hershey biting the back of the neck of the oryx while Nestle, the first one to run, was sitting (then laying) in the shade of a tree! Then, before us, Chanel and Toblerone began to hunt down the mother oryx, as Hershey was already on the calf! They both chased after the mother for about another 50-70m! The attention was back on Hershey who was still awkwardly attempting to kill the calf. Suddenly with a quick yank of the head, the oryx calf was free from Hershey’s jaws. The young calf (~5-6 months old) charged at Hershey, who backed off and then turned to face the calf. As fast as she was thrown off, Hershey lunged herself back at the face of the calf! At this point, Toblerone came back to help her. With Hershey on the calf’s head, Toblerone tripped the oryx’s hind legs and now it was doomed on the ground. A minute later, it appeared that Hershey and Toblerone switched spots. Now Hershey was at the calf's rear and Toblerone had a proper neck-bite (strangulation hold) although she seemed to have a difficult time finding a comfortable position and had to re-adjust her grip several times. Eventually Toblerone retreated for some rest in the shade while Nestle got up and began to feed alongside Hershey and Chanel. The cats seemed outrageously hungry! They ate for about three hours and left the head, skin and bones! They devoured this carcass!

Earlier in the day Kat and Aymeric swapped and we then checked the hyena hair snare – nothing! And after lunch Aymeric and I attempted to do a Giraffe Feeding Ecology survey on Cyclops (photo), a giraffe that hangs around this area. We need 15 minutes of recorded feeding from him and each tree he ate. Unfortunately, Cyclops ran away when a giraffe calf ran and spooked him. We ended up with only 9 minutes of feeding and this took about 40 minutes to accomplish. So attempt #1 failed.

Later that night we checked on the girls again using the aerial and receiver and got a strong signal where we left them! So we went back to camp for the night. I am so very happy the girls got a meal and now we do not have to worry about feeding them! Today was a very productive day, and we also got Jetson back; our 1972 Land Rover with a power steering! Aymeric has been teaching me how to drive it. It is a very intense and harsh (not to mention, loud) vehicle that requires every ounce of your individualized attention, plus some upper body strength.

When I left Kat, she mentioned how lucky I was to be out here and she is completely right. It has been 41 days and I always thing about how fortunate I am and how much I respect my position here at CCF!

Day 42: Thursday, 12 October 2010

It took us a while to locate the cats because of the equipment and tracks leading us in wrong directions, but when we did find them at 7:30 they were laying down! Hershey, Chanel and Toblerone were together in some open grass while Nestle was about 30m away, alone! As the sun begins to get hot, the girls move out of the open bush and lead us directly to the road bordering the Frans Indongo fence line. They briefly rested in the road before heading into the bush. We find them lying together under a large bush with the exception of Nestle, who is about 35m away lying by herself again! But she eventually got up and walked to the others while “CHIRPURRING,” a new word I made up that describes one of the cats’ vocalizations. It is not a chirp or a loud call, as if the cat has been lost of separated. It is also not a purr as if they were lying comfortably next to one another. It is the combination of both; the approach from one cat to another, possibly a greeting. It sounds like a (initially) high-pitched chirp that descends to a stuttering purr that rumbles throughout the cat’s chest. Nestle knew where the other girls were, so no need to call for them, but as she drew nearer, she let them know of her gentle presence with a chirpurr. Eventually, the girls needed better shade, so the instant Chanel stood up, the Chocolates followed her and they walked about 20m westward and flopped in the shade beneath a larger bush. The girls lay 1-2m and purred. Then it was time to exchange Aymeric for Matt so we went back to the camp. However, as we began to go back to find the girls, Jetson, our beloved vehicle broke down .

We walked back to camp (photo) to be picked up by Matti, the head ecologist. We had to go back to CCF to get a different vehicle. We ended up getting the Mahindra and went back to Bellebenno around 16:00. After failingly attempting to fix Jetson, we went to find the girls, who (when we got there) have only moved about 15m north of the spot we left them at about 10:30! The girls slept the entire time except for when a bird or something seemingly spooked Hershey and jumped to her feet, thus scaring the other girls up too, before they returned to the same spots and continued resting. After dinner, at 20:45, we went searching for them again and found them sleeping on detour road again! We let them sleep in peace. It was a disappointment that Jetson broke down again just as I was beginning to learn how to drive him… But the cats are good as they rested their full bellies all day. They walked almost 2km away from where they made the kill yesterday. I thought this was decently far considering how full they appeared last night!

More to come soon!


Thursday, 21 October 2010

Studying Biodiversity to Protect the Cheetah

As 70% of Namibia’s game inhabits farmlands, assessment of the farmland ecosystem for long-term habitat viability for the cheetah and its prey is part of CCF’s primary, ongoing research. Some of the activities carried out by the CCF Eco Team include monitoring weather, game and prey habitat preferences and bush encroachment, to name a few. Here is the first report from CCF's Ecologist Katherine Forsythe. Enjoy!

Cheetah Census Camera Traps – We finished waterproofing all the cameras.

Biodiversity Study – The cameras are continuing to be moved on a 10-day basis. They have one more move after today before we plan on pulling them out early November (which will make total of 12 weeks).

Rhino Tracking –All the cameras seem to be working fine (photo). We have been taking the Eartwatchers out in the past week and it seems to be going very well. They seem to find the activity very interesting and educational. We are still having a few issues with radio signals at the moment (signals dropping out or switching directions or very weak in all directions) but we have managed to get at least one good fix on rhino 4 this week. Picnic Dam is now completely dried up.

Swing gates – CCF continues to develop the swing gates concept as a reliable and cost effective tool to protect game-fenced farmland structures from damage due to burrowing/digging animals by excluding predators from an enclosure whilst allowing the free-range movement of smaller mammals. The Team continued to check for and fix new holes around fences.

Bellebenno Giraffe Project – Aymeric and Ryan are going to start collecting feeding ecology data from the giraffes. Matti had a tree identification session with Aymeric last week, and with the help of a guidebook and some prior teaching from James, they will be able to identify trees.

Wild Boys –HiFi has continued to be seen around the Elands Pen. We have a spare camera trap also along the fence line to see if there is another male hanging around but haven’t had any sightings (or pictures) other than HiFi (photo).

Bitter bush eradication – We are starting to design an experiment to test different eradication methods for bitter bush on the Big Field. I have talked to Johan (our Farm Manager) and he has given me a list of different techniques he would like to try and use to get rid of the bush, including manual removal and a few different herbicides.

Game Counts – We had a busy week of field counts with the Earthwatch crew here. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. We have more circuit counts and a 12hr Bellebenno waterhole count planned shortly.

I think that is about it for this week. Stay tuned for the Bellebenno report coming soon!


Kat Forsythe

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Puppy Sterilization Day

On the 13th and 14th of October the first puppy sterilizations took place at the CCF Clinic (photo left).   

Tylee, one of our Anatolians, gave birth to these 5 puppies on 19th August 2010.  They were born at the kraal and introduced to young goats and sheep early on in their life. The puppies are now 8 weeks old and will soon go to their new homes as working dogs.  

They will be brought to the clinic again next week to have their transponders placed and receive their first vaccinations.  The surgeries went well with Dr. Anais Herbert performing the operations and Rosie Glazier assisting her.  Many volunteers were happy to help preparing the little dogs for the procedure and to be an extra hand throughout the operation (photo - right: Sanna, a student intern from the Netherlands assisting with one of the puppies).  They recovered very well and were taken back to the kraal later in the evening.

The puppies will be placed at their respective farmers on the 23 October 2010 by our Livestock Guarding Dog Programme personnel. 

Cheetah purrs to all,

The CCF Clinic staff.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Cheetah Husbandry Update 11-17 Oct-10

All of our cats this past week are in good health, and appear thankful for the heat lift!

This week was quite interesting for two of our Centre Pen males, Ron (photo) and LittleC.  LittleC is typically the king of his pen, shared with Ron and brothers Smart and Blonde (aka Ndunge and Shunga), and tensions have been rising between the older Ron and LittleC over the past few months.  This past Monday, Ron had enough.  He snapped at LittleC’s neck, taking a chunk of fur away in his mouth, and proceeded to chase LittleC the entire length of the pen, around the yard, before LittleC ran into the fence line.  Thankfully neither was seriously injured, except maybe LittleC’s pride.  Since that fateful morning the boys have calmed down, and LittleC still tries to steal Ron’s food at feeding time… I guess we will see if he has another lesson coming to him!

Soraya, Phoenix, and Quasar are proving to be our next Star runners!  While running this past week, the keepers were amazed how fast these youngsters ran.  The keepers are eagerly awaking the return of one of our volunteer Goran to see if he can ‘speed-up’ the machine, then we can really see these beautiful creatures fully extend their strides.



Thursday, 14 October 2010

Finding the right farms for CCF's Livestock Guarding Dogs

CCF’s Education Officer Gebhardt Nikanor, “Gebs,” just came back from visiting farmers that applied for a livestock guarding dog from CCF to protect their small livestock (archive photo - Gebs talking to a farmer). CCF evaluates farms to ensure that puppies are placed only in farms with good infrastructure, healthy animals and a full-time herder. Out of the seven farms visited, five were approved to receive livestock guarding puppies. These puppies will be given away on 23rd of October. Before receiving puppies, all farmers are given a short training on how to raise and train the dogs.

During this trip, Gebs also conducted outreach programs to schools in Herero east, close to the farms that were evaluated. In total eight schools were visited in the area and a total of 3371 learners were talked to. The learners were from grade 5 – 9. 

Please remember that all this work cannot be accomplished without funding, and funding comes from people who, like you, care about cheetahs and believe that they deserve an opportunity to be protected from extinction. You can help by making a donation here!

NamibRand female - update as of 12/Oct

The female has moved south again.  After last week's circling of Neuhof Noord, she first headed up to Neuhof Reserve on the 6th.  We are then missing a couple of days data, but when we pick up her trail again on Oct 9th, she is on Hammerstein where she remains for the 10th and 11th, while moving slowly south and east.  During the late morning on the 12th, our last point for this week she had moved onto what I believe is Gemsbokhoring.

As of 11AM yesterday, she was 12 km east of the NRNR border on roughly the latitude of the Keerweder Pan.



Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Monitoring the Reintroduced Cheetahs in Bellebenno - The Journal

Monday 04th October. Day 34.

As the last mornings since it’s hotter during the day, the girls have already moved when we come at 6 am. I am quite sure that now they move earlier than before. At the beginning, we found them in the morning, at least close to the spot where we had let them the day before, whereas now they are pretty far away (a few kms), especially on days when we think they will hunt, like today. Or maybe they move during the night but they are not used to do this because of the captivity. 

We manage to find them despite our malfunctioning equipment as they are still walking. Finally, at 8 :30 am they get a duiker after a chase that lasted less than 30 seconds. It was really impressive, even for James… Chanel got it and then Toblerone finished it. Like for the zebra they caught a few days ago (photo), Chanel seemed to teach to Toblerone how to kill…like a mum with a cub!

While they were eating, suddenly I heard lots of growling and all the Chocolates ran away from the carcass, obviously chased by Chanel. Then Toblerone came back a minute later and was allowed to eat. The rest, Hershey and Nestle, came back 20 minutes later, carefully, after watching from 50m away.  Chanel is obviously the dominant of the group. Toblerone seems to be dominant too but nevertheless under Chanel.
After eating the duiker in less than three hours, the girls rested all the day until the night.

Tuesday 05th October. Day 35.

A pretty common day! They walk in the early morning, drink at Sukkel Dam (photo) and move in the open area between Dieckman’s fence and the first road in Bellebenno --not far away from the black gate, and then rest all the day, starting to walk again at the dusk.  I did observe a few things:

First of all, Toblerone is calling while the rest of the girls are resting under a tree. It’s not a usual call as when she vocalices for the others. Instead, it is a call between purring and chirping! After talking with Kate, one of the keepers, we realize that Toblerone could be in heat! Indeed, according to Kate, the hormonal treatment for castration is 7/8 months older and it is supposed to be effective only 6 months. Who knows, maybe we will have the chance to see a mating and in few months to have cubs! But if this happens, what about the coalition? Normally, for cheetahs, only the dominant females should be in heat (in this case Toblerone and Chanel, and we wonder whether Chanel’s behavior with the duiker was an expression of heat?). Nevertheless, according to Kate, Hershey and Nestle could be in heat one day. In this case, they would leave the coalition for 2-3 days.

Chanel’s scat is very soft and today we could see a worm in the sample we collected. After asking to the vet and the keepers, it appears that we will give to all of them some de-wormers. 

This week, because of car issues, we have the Mahindra, a car that the cats are obviously  not used to. Every time they hear this car, they sit or stand up, sometimes moving into the bush. So when we have to follow them on the road, we stay quite far away to avoid disturbing them too much.

Wednesday 06th October. Day 36.

The first part of the day is really lazy! They stay on the same area as yesterday, starting resting at 8 :30! Like every day, they have some fun with some warthogs, chasing them to end up being chased by them. On the late afternoon, after setting up the «hair trap» for brown hyena, we find them walking on  the road between Sukkel dam and Kindergarten. We follow them on the road for one and a half hours and then leave them as the night comes, after 3 kms of walking!

Toblerone is still calling as yesterday but less often and lower.

Thursday 07th October. Day 37.

What a busy morning ! The busiest in a while! And moreover, in a «new area» (they have already been in the boundary of this region, but staying on the roads, not walking into and investigating the bush)! 

They walk about 5-6 kms in a really dense bush from 6 to 10 am. Maybe the densest in Bellebenno; so dense that it was hard to see and follow them 10m behind. In fact we lost them 2 or 3 times and were forced to use our equipment to find them again! This walk occurred between Kindergarten, the cattle fence and Dieckman’s fence. In this area, there is an old fence which cut the bush in two parts, except on the roads. Turns out that Nestle was alone on one side, while the others were on the other side. Nestle was calling, walking along the fence. Hershey was always walking on the other side close to the fence too, but not calling. Further from the fence and in the bush, Chanel and Toblerone were following slowly and answered to Nestle. Finally, after an hour, they managed to get back together, but when they met up, they did not groom or vocalize or even touch each other; they just kept walking! We noticed that Nestle was more aggressive toward us, growling if we were within 10-15 m –usually a normal distance. Then, they rested all the day under the shade of big bushes. Finally in the evening they came back to their «home range» in the open area, after a long walk (4 to 5 kms). Thanks to this walk, we have discovered a really nice and open area, like an oasis, with green big trees and sand (but without water).

So much walk in one day! They are probably hungry, looking for food, but they look fine, not too thin, not too tired… Unfortunately and surprisingly, we haven’t met any game during these walks ! The next meal will be enjoyed for sure!