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Friday, 31 December 2010

CCF Cheetah Keeper's update - Road to Freedom!

The New Year is almost upon us and when it does it will bring a new and very exciting chapter for Chanel and the Chocolates (photo). In January CCF’s most famous cheetahs will be moved to Erindi Nature Reserve. This means they will truly be free living cheetahs, with 70,000-ha of land to explore. This is the scenario we dreamed of when these four female cheetahs were first released into our Bellebenno game camp four months ago. You may well be asking yourselves how exactly do you transport four cheetahs living in a 4000-ha game camp to another location? Well, the first step is to move the cats back into their old home, the Bellebenno cheetah pens. Therefore this week CCF’s keepers, veterinary staff, selected volunteers and our Game Ranger James Slade went to Bellebenno to do just that. The task at hand was to find the girls through radio telemetry, anaesthetise them with a dart gun, place them in transport boxes and drive them back to the pens. If that sounds like a major operation then you would be right!

We aimed to dart all four cats at the same time but in the morning only Toblerone was successfully placed back in the pen from whence she came. In the afternoon however, thanks to James’ expert marksmanship with the dart gun, Chanel, Nestle and Hershey were taken to join Toblerone. This brought the Bellebenno release project to an end after 118 days and many successful kills!

With the cats now safely in a pen, when the day comes for the big move their keepers can easily usher them into a trap cage and then into the transport boxes. It will be a very exciting day and one all of us here at CCF are thoroughly looking forward to. We will of course let you know how it goes.

Happy New Year, and thanks so much to all CCF supporters for making this and other important projects possible!


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Cheetahs' Update from Keeper Matt

A few weeks ago the three Scar males (Phil, Tony, and Mischief) were formally introduced to the "Wild Boys," three wild males that arrived here last March: Chuck, Geno and Crosby. The two trios have had spent a month living in neighbouring enclosures and investigating one another through the fence; despite some early squabbles the all settled down and behaved.

The prospects of a safe introduction looked good but just to be safe our cheetah keepers were armed with sticks so they could separate the boys and put a stop to any fights that broke out. The guillotine between the two enclosures was opened and the Scars entered into the wild males pen. Things started off a little tense as the two sets of males engaged in a stand off. It was Chuck who broke the ice first and slowly walked over to the Scars. His reward for his bravery was a smack in the face by Phil. Chuck backed off and the stand off resumed. However, things quickly improved and Chuck and Crosby were allowed to come close to the Scars and partake in some mutual sniffing. After 20 minutes things had calmed down and Chuck and Crosby were allowed to lay with the Scars. Geno has always been the shyest of the Wild Boys and decided to stay in the corner. Since this first introduction the six males tolerate each other but are far from best friends. At feeding times there is still the occasional squabble, with Phil being the guiltiest by picking on Geno. We are confident that given time all six cats will become more civil with each other and hopefully form a close bond.

The two 6-month old cubs (a brother and a sister) that arrived recently have been moved to a different enclosure due to the female’s mischievous tendency to climb up the side of her pen. Therefore to be extra sure the little Houdini wannabe does not escape, she and her brother were moved into a pen designed for holding leopards, a pen that has one major difference….a roof! Upon release into their new pen the female wasted no time in checking out her new surroundings and spent a lot of her time looking up for a possible exit. Given time, the two newcomers will settle down and realise that they are safe here.

Happy New Year to all! And please remember that the Year-End Challenge is still on for three more days. Every donation received through 31 December will count twice!


Saturday, 18 December 2010

NamibRand female - as of 14/Dec

The female cheetah made up for her limited movement a fortnight ago, with a more substantial trek this week.  Starting where we left her on northern Hammerstein, she first headed south onto the lower SE portion of the farm, then headed east on Dec 9th, arriving on Zaries two days later. From there she headed NE before turning around and moving back towards to C19 on the 14th.

As of 10:30 PM on December 14th, she was 800m north of the C19, and 18 km east of the NRNR border on the same latitude as southern end of the Bushman Koppies.


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

CCF's Ecology Team Reports.

Earthwatch volunteer checking a camera trap (archive photo)
Our Ecology team has had a pretty busy past couple of weeks with back-to-back Earthwatch teams here at CCF. As always we were fortunate to have some really terrific groups of volunteers, they have been a great help in so many facets of our research. We have had some rain over the past few weeks and are seeing everything transform and turn green including our dams (many of which were long dry) refilling with water. With the coming of the rains, we are seeing lots of interesting insects, reptiles, amphibians and birds starting to appear.

Everything is going well with our camera traps. We recently got our first cheetah on a camera trap on our Farm Bynadaar as well as our first photos from Osonanga. We have also been getting lots of photos of HiFi, the two wild males that live in Bellebenno (photo left), the mother and 4 cubs, and potentially a new female on the big field. As always, we get a variety of interesting photos of other animals through our camera traps.

All four female cheetahs participating in the Bellebenno re-introduction research are doing fine. We are following them a little less intensively now, checking on them early mornings and also in the evenings (as these are the times they are most active). With Ryan and Aymeric sadly having come to the end of their internships (they will be very much missed), James, Matt and Kate are now taking the lead on checking on the cats. Matti and I have been analysing some of the their movement data; throughout their released period they have managed to move around almost the entire area of the Bellebenno camp and are moving on average about 3.5 km a day, mainly in the early hours of the morning and early evening.

We have seen HiFi around the centre a few times in the past week or so. We will be setting a trap to try and catch him to change his collar in the next few days.

As part of CCF's Biodiveristy Project, we have finished the 3 months of monitoring the harvested and non-harvested plots. We are now busy sorting through camera trap photos and hope to begin analysis soon.

We are continuing to check the fence line daily and recording new and reopened holes. With the recent rains, some of ground has softened up making it easier for a few more holes to be made underneath the fence. It does, however, still seem that most of hole-digging animals (warthogs and porcupines) are using the swing gates!

Leopard caught on camera!
With Earthwatch here the past two weeks we have been trying to do all our monthly game counts. Unfortunately, we have had a hard time with a few of the counts being rained out last week, however, we have had much better weather this week. This Earthwatch group has had phenomenal luck on some of the counts, like seeing six cheetahs on one night count, a spectacular sighting of an aardwolf on the next and then a great sighting of a leopard on a late afternoon count. Following the rains, the big field is alive with animals and we are seeing bigger herds of oryx, springbok and red hartebeest (with lots of little red hartebeest frolicking around as well).

Cheetah mother and cubs in Osonanga.
Unfortunately, we have had to said goodbye, or are about to, to a lot of our interns. Ryan and Aymeric have already left and Sanne, Brett and Henry will be leaving next week. Sanne has worked incredibly hard throughout her time here and has made a lot of progress with our project looking at the diet of the free-ranging Namibian cheetah through analysis of hairs in scat samples. Brett has worked hard on analysing some data from our monthly waterhole counts as well as spending a lot of his time helping Aletris out with her caracal project. Henry has been very involved with the care of puppies and goats as well as helping sort through camera trap photos. Recently he has also been helping James with the removal of the invasive prickly pear from around cheetah pens. Our new intern from the van Hall Larenstien University in the Netherlands, Marjolein, has arrived and is settling in well. She will be working on a project looking at the use camera trap photos of non-target animals to estimate species richness and density.

Happy Holidays to everyone, and please don't forget we have a Challenge through the 31 December. Remember that your donation will make an enormous difference not only to the cheetah but to its entire eco-system!

Kat Forsythe

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Two wild cheetah cubs get a health checkup.

Earthwatch Volunteers assist Dr. Laurie Marker and the CCF Clinic staff with a wild cheetah work up.
On the 1st December 2010 the Clinic at CCF performed work ups on 2 wild cheetah cubs. The procedure was led by Dr Laurie Marker and Dr Anais Herbet. Rosie Glazier and many other staff and volunteers were also involved. Current Earthwatch volunteers were able to take part and have a hands-on experience.

The two cubs, one male and one female are around 6 months of age. They were caught in a trap cage by a farmer in the Otjiwarongo region. The mother was unfortunately not caught after several attempts. It is believed that she abandoned the cubs. The anaesthesia went smoothly allowing the team to gain important data and samples; and to be able to assess the health of the young cubs. Both are in very good condition with only a few superficial wounds from the cage. Vaccinations and de-wormers were given and transponders placed. They recovered well and are currently held in a secure quarantine pen close to the centre.

During cheetah checkups, the CCF staff measures them and takes samples that provide important data about the cheetah's biology and health.
Remember, this is one of many examples of what your donations accomplish. Please remember to include the cheetah in your gift list this December, and every dollar will be doubled as part of our year-end challenge!

With best wishes,

The CCF Clinic Staff

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

CCF talks to fourth graders at Eros Primary School in Windhoek

Aletris Neils with the Eros Primary School's fourth-grade class.
CCF staff visited the Eros Primary school in Windhoek last week. CCF's Gail Potgieter and Aletris Neils spoke to 180 fourth graders about the cheetah and CCF's work. During the visit, the kids presented CCF with funds they raised as part of their conservation week. The school trip was coordinated by teacher and former CCF volunteer, Cindy Botha. Bravo Cindy and all the kids at Eros!
Gail and Aletris are presented with donations raised by the Eros Primary School 4th graders.
Children are the future stewards of our planet. CCF's youth education programs are a crucial element as they build awareness to the plight of the cheetah and to the many solutions that can be implemented for peaceful co-existence with predators. Please support this and other important programs with a donation this December!


Monday, 6 December 2010

Cheetahs' Update from Keeper Kate. 30 Nov-6 Dec 2010.

This past week a couple of our Bellebenno cheetahs have been entertaining our newest Earthwatch volunteers with some of their antics. Kayla, one of our younger females has taken to pestering the older cheetahs, spurring them on to run faster. One particular morning Luna had a double whammy of a moment running behind the feeding bakkie. With all the recent rains, tortoises have started coming out, including inside the cheetah pens! Luna was running behind the bakkie as usual, when Kayla gave her a playful double smack on the behind causing her to lunge forward straight into a passing tortoise! Poor Luna didn’t quite know how to react, and jumped what seemed like 5 feet straight in the air! Although we are all pretty sure that tortoise was just as surprised as she was!

It is not just the Bellebenno cheetahs stealing the show, although they normally do that anyway. One of our 'scientists', Darwin (photo), appears to have been taking a note from Kayla’s harassment book. Darwin is the smallest of the Scientists, and has one of the biggest personalities as well. His victim is “Mr. Livingstone, I presume?” Livingstone and Darwin are the two smallest of the four and typically lag behind during the run. Darwin usually follows behind Livingstone, but apparently that is no longer good enough for Darwin as he has taken to playfully double smacking Livingstone’s hindquarters. At times it appears as if Darwin could almost jump up on Livingstone’s backside and ride him the rest of the feeding-run!

Also last week we received a call regarding a mother and two cubs on a farm just outside Kalkfeld (the neighbouring town to Otjiwarongo) suspected of catching small stock. The farmer is very conservation minded, and called CCF for assistance relocating this mother and cubs. CCF staff members Matti (senior ecologist), James (game ranger), and Kat (ecologist) assisted the farmer with trapping both cubs, but the mum was proving quite difficult. Over the next 3 days James and the farmer were in constant contact in regards to whether the mum was caught or still in the area. Unfortunately it appears the mum has abandoned the two cubs, and both cubs were brought back to CCF. The cubs are about 6 months' old and received a full health check up three days ago. Our friendly farmer is still trying to find the mum, and we are all hoping he succeeds.

Cheetah purrs to all, and please remember we have a challenge this month. Every donation until 31 December will be matched up to US$200,000, dollar for dollar, by a group of dedicated supporters. A cheetah sponsorship is a wonderful Holiday gift that keeps on giving for an entire year with two updates on the sponsored cheetah, as well as our Keeper updates on this blog.