Student interns Ryan, Aymeric and Sanne are doing a great job monitoring the four cheetahs that are participating in this stage of CCF's re-introduction research in Bellebenno. We are delighted to share their personal impressions here! As the Holidays approach, we want to remind you that this and other CCF projects are only possible thanks to your donations. Please consider putting the cheetah in your Holiday Gifts list! Now, through 31 December, your gift will be doubled as part of our Year-End Challenge!
Day 70: Tuesday, 9 November 2010
As the girls rested, Aymeric and I did a successful giraffe survey on Shilo and then later an unsuccessful one on Fiona. Fiona is very cautious around people and ran further away into the dense bush when we approached her. Since our presence was affecting her behavior, we decided to abandon that survey. Aymeric and I also found a small white hair in snare trap #2 next to the main black gates; collect sample!
When we returned to the girls, Chanel was already eating. As more shade was cast over the carcass, the Chocolates then came to feed as well. We observed Chanel’s usual aggressive behavior when the other three approached, but they all alternated feeding and by 18:30, all four were resting once again. The girls’ signal remained in the same general area of the carcass so we left for the night. They are definitely starting to show their independence.
Day 71: Wednesday, 10 November 2010
When they finally went to rest under the shade of a bush, Aymeric and I did hair snare checks (negative results) as well as one giraffe survey on DIB, a sub-adult male and one of my favorite giraffes in Bellebenno! After he finished feeding we got closer to him and he walked around a tree, hiding and then poking his head out the side to watch us! It was hilarious and charming.
We went to CCF to work on data entry until 17:00 and then back to Bellebenno. The girls were not where we left them, so we started tracking and found them about 150m away on a kill! They hunted down a young adult male eland and were feeding on it. After the girls moved away, we inspected the carcass and we were impressed by the size of the prey, hunted probably during the hottest time of the day! 80m later we stumbled upon another kill! It was the same age and size as the first one, but this was a female eland. We knew our girls killed it because of the marks on its neck. Meanwhile, the girls rested in a shaded area, minus Toblerone who got separated while walking in the dense bush. Once Toblerone began vocalizing they all met up back at this kill #2 and stayed near it. We left the cats lying down by 19:15. Despite our disappointments about not witnessing these 2 kills, it was still a very productive day. It is refreshing to know that the girls are capable of killing older eland and not just calves, which are not a year-long commodity. If these girls move to another farm or lodge, we know they can handle taking down larger prey.
Day 72: Thursday, 11 November 2010
We found the girls this morning around 06:10 feeding at kill #2. Aymeric and I witnessed the typical feeding behaviors of these cats: Chanel growls, hisses or slaps any of the Chocolates who gets too close; Hershey allogrooming every cat; Nestle’s submissive yet invasive nature that usually ends up getting her swatted on the head. Soon enough, the hot sun ruined the feeding and the girls took refuge in the shade. Throughout the day, they moved one more time (~60 more meters) to find the best shade, and slept the rest of the day! Meanwhile, Aymeric and I did our routine checks on the hair snares (nothing, no hair) and we also did a giraffe survey on Geoffrey.
Day 73: Friday, 12 November 2010
Later we checked the hyena snares and the results were negative but we did manage to get good results for the giraffe project on Bullet, and adult female. It was a great day and the rain thankfully cooled everything down the rest of the afternoon. We left the girls as they continued eating in hopes that we would find them there tomorrow.
Day 74: Saturday, 13 November 2010
The cats moved once more during the day to find better shade 100m away, until ~16:00 when they began to stir again. The clouds began to rumble in, getting darker and then the thunder started. It cooled everything and the girls started to walk, occasionally chasing warthogs en route. They led us to detour road where they started to fall asleep as sprinkles of rain came. All around us were sheets of rain and claps of lightning, but it only drizzled where we were located. Later the cats moved into the open bush and flopped beneath the shelter of some bushes. It was a refreshing day and night. Aymeric and I were surprised the girls never made it to Sukkel waterhole, but we think they had enough fluids from the carcass to supplement their thirst. We collected scat samples from both Toblerone and Hershey for later analysis.
As usual in Namibia, the weather patterns are nearly impossible to predict, but it was very comfortable having the cool protection of the clouds, saving us from the sun!
Day 75: Sunday, 14 November 2010
Day 76: Monday, 15 November 2010
Our giraffe project is finally done! Our last subject to watch eat was Fighter, an adult male missing his left ossicone (horn-like protuberances on the heads of giraffes and other animals). Later we met with James to report on the girls’ progress. It was a great day, despite the gloomy weather.