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Friday, 22 April 2011

Long-term CCF Volunteer blogs from Namibia.

Ron Marks (pictured above with Laurie at the 2010 CCF DC Chapter fundraiser) and hiw wife Christy first visited CCF as Earth Watch volunteers in May 2007. Immediately upon their return to the DC area they joined the DC Chapter. Since then they have seen Dr. Marker during everyone of her visits to DC in the spring and the fall. They are active supporters of the CCF DC Chapter, especially during each Annual Silent Auction event. Ron has also helped out at the CCF office in Alexandria (Virginia), mainly with database entries.

Ron arrived at CCF on 4/5/11 as a long-term volunteer. He helps out in many areas. Thus far he has helped with the cheetahs, the dogs and game counts, as well as providing support with CCF's volunteer programme. According to Ron, his blog "was set up primarily to inform friends and family and whoever else wants to learn of my experiences and about what goes on at CCF. The reports are very generic and will not include any research type of information."

Learning about CCF through the impressions of our volunteers is always interesting, as it helps us to constantly make improvements to the volunteer experience. We hope you will enjoy reading Ron's blog, The Cheetah Field Report, which he plans to update on a weekly basis.

Welcome to CCF, Ron!


Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Cheetah Friend visits Erindi!

Long-time friend and supporter from Germany, Gertrud Dingermann (photo above with Bruce and Laurie), recently visited CCF and took a side trip to Erindi to look for Chanel and the Chocolates --remember? The five females re-introduced there in early January this year. Here is Gertrud's report:

I left CCF and went to Erindi. Maybe I told you about me going there? I learned about them only in January when they "adopted" the Chocolate-sisters and Chanel.I promised Laurie to send photos if I'd see them.

Well, I did see them on a "Cheetah-Walk" the Erindi people organized. It was a VERY windy day so the four of them obviously didn't feel like getting up but rather crouched under a bush. Because of the wind there were very little other animals, game that is, to see so they couldn't/wouldn't hunt anyway. But Henco (the Erindi guide keeping track of the cheetah girls as you know) told me they were often seen hunting and they usually had quite a "tummy".

I am attaching some photos that you might want to put on CCF's blog or/and forward to Laurie so I keep my promise.

I also took a few minutes of video which I will share soon.

All the best to you and many greetings


Sunday, 17 April 2011

After the Annual Cheetah Checkups

With annuals over, the vet team can take some much needed rest, while the husbandry team now has five cats on antibiotics 2x/day and many more to prepare for dental work that will be needed within the next few months! Plus a warthog inside the Bellebenno Cheetah pen (all females are locked up away from the pig, but I’ll save this story for another time!)

For the most part Padme, Samantha, Misty, Hermione, and Klein are quite good patients, although don’t let them hear you say that! I was giving Klein (photo) his second dose of the day (3 pills) and commenting to volunteer keeper Emily from Longleat in the UK how good he is at taking his pills. Well I swear the crafty boy understood me and decided to prove me wrong. After taking two of his pills without any problems, he proceeded to spit out his third (and final) pill, once, twice, and three times! Despite how deep into the meat I would place the pill, he would chew and then spit it out! I think he just wanted to show me that he is still his own boss at times. Ever since then he has taken all his meds like the good cheetah he usually is, but still looks up at me with his amber eyes as if daring me to provoke him again. Despite what a pain he can be, Klein will always be one of my favourite cheetahs!


Saturday, 9 April 2011

Ecology update from Kat

A quick update from the Ecology Department

Well, somehow the rain is still falling. We are now over 800 mm at some of our farms and our dams are full and in some cases overflowing. The rain is making it difficult to get all the counts done each month and some of the roads we have had to abandon when wet. We have, however, managed to get all our monthly waterhole counts and the majority of our road transect counts done. Recent exciting sightings include a female leopard and small cub, a group of seven bat-eared foxes (a pair with 5 almost full grown young) out by the field and an aardwolf hanging around the hotspot during the late afternoons.

We are about to start a study on the invasive “bitterbush” or “blue bush” that has appeared on the big field in recent years. Little is known about this bush, especially within Namibia. It is thought to be highly unpalatable (tastes bad) and may out compete grass species. If this is the case, it could be detrimental to the grazing quality of the big field and for the antelopes that rely on this habitat for food. One of our Polytechnic student, Gustaf, will be working with the Ecology department to determine the extent and condition of this bush throughout the field as well as whether or not it is being browsed by animals.

We are continuing to monitor HiFi, our resident collared wild male. Since his brother and coalition mate's death last year he has been spending more and more time hanging around the CCF centre and visiting our captive girls. We often pick up photos of him out at our camera trap stations at playtrees on the big field, and from his very full belly we can tell he is still hunting successfully on his own.

HiFi at one of the Big Field camera traps with a very full stomach.

Our camera trapping census is still going well and we continue to pick up lots of photos of cheetah (and leopards) across CCF farms. As always, there is a lot of data to be sorted and entered from these camera traps. The last two Earthwatch groups have been hugely valuable in helping us sort through and log all these photos.

Until the next time!


Thursday, 7 April 2011

Chewbaaka's Celebration of Life

Dear Friend,

It has been a sad couple of days here at CCF with the loss of Chewbaaka. Thank you for your kind words for me and all of us here at CCF.

We have received so many messages and emails honouring his legacy and reading them has brought us great consolation and our consolations go out to you as well.

We had a memorial service for Chewbaaka today for all our staff and we felt that all of you were with us, as we read many of your comments to us.

He lived a great life and taught many people from around the world about his species’ fight for survival. While his death is sad, his legacy is to be celebrated, and now we will carry on his message to further inform and educate the people of Namibia and around the world.

He will always be in our hearts, here is a wonderful poem by CCF’s Matti Nghikembua.

We follow in your tracks – Chewbaaka

Chirp chirp the cheetah cub calling aloud to this world.
Sitting in the trap, oh what happened, chirping louder as he could
Wondering what happened to his perfect world
And mom is nowhere but the tracks are leading to the savannah
Laurie Marker was on call that day and heard of you.
She took you home - no more an orphan.
Ever since then you were known as Chewbaaka
In Namibia and beyond you are forever the best of all.
The cheetah athlete running on the field
I wanna be like you to arrive there on time.
The taxis are so slow so give me a ride
Chewbaaka is running for his survival and we are watching
Leaving a mirage and tracks on the field so we are reminded.
The storms are so high and tracks so fragile
These tracks will never fade away.
Allow my confessions the first time we met
I was afraid of you because they warned me a cat with spots is dangerous
So let’s follow his tracks wherever they go

Matti T. Nghikembua, 20th March 2011


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Thanks to all...

Wow, what a day!  We started the morning doing the necropsy on Chewbaaka. What we found, we could not have seen before.  He had gone septic.  Some of his organs were in great shape for his age, like his heart and liver, his kidneys did not look that bad, his lungs and his spleen were not very healthy, showing abscesses. It was a very sad morning, however, to see is to then know what he was dealing with.  We are all indeed sad. Thanks to Allison and Patricia to put out all the information to everyone about his passing and the emails that we are getting are all very nice. So many people felt a relationship with Mr. C. and cherish their moments with him while visiting us.  He was so amazing and never a day passed that Bruce nor I did not cherish with him. 
Our life has a hole, we walk past his area, and he is not there.  He used his compound to watch where Bruce and I were daily and positioned himself in strategic areas.  We would talk to him all the time, and if we walked past him and did not say Hi – he would always make himself known - he is not there.  It’s not just us, all of CCF staff are hurting.  He was such an icon. He was always at the entrance of the Education Centre – to greet our guests and sleep next to their office – our staff is missing him.  Coming home last night, we greeted by our two scat finding dogs, and they spent the evening telling me that something was wrong.  The OK Cubs keep looking into where Mr. C should be – Tiger Lily, my baby, just wants to be next to me. The Stars, were all around last night and today – sort of clingy. We are sad.
However, it’s hard to be sad when we have so much to do.  It was great that our two Smithsonian  vets were here for the 4-hour necropsy. They did great working with Anne (CCF geneticist/vet) and Anna (CCF vet).  Anna and Anne have worked so closely with me and Bruce for the past month… Chewbaaka would have been proud at how gently and caring he was worked on.  
And then at around 2pm our day started!  We began the medical workups on the five cheetahs that were scheduled for annual physicals today – a bit of a push, however, the cats were boxed already, some from Bellebenno – 45 minutes away – so we doubled up and at one point did a male and female almost simultaneously.   The males, Ombdillo, and Chester, both had good sperm.  Health wise they were good. The three females, Rosie, an old friend, looked great for her older age and Solo, also an older cat – and Xena – one of the younger females living in Bellebenno – all were in great condition. We finished by sunset.
A sad day followed by a long busy day reinforcing why we are here. I am truly glad that Allison is here with us – things always are at the right place and time – Cheetah Time.  If only I could turn back time – but instead all of us are making Cheetah Time – for their future. 
Thanks all for your kind and soothing words in every e-mail I have read.
All the best,

Monday, 4 April 2011

Goodbye to Chewbaaka

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Laurie and Chewbaaka - (c) Frans Lanting
Photo courtesy of Frans Lanting. (c) Frans Lanting.
My dear friends,
With the deepest sorrow, we said goodbye to Chewbaaka today. In late February, a rabid kudu jumped into Chewbaaka’s enclosure. Despite being almost 16 years old, Chewbaaka attempted to kill the kudu, suffering bruises that covered his entire abdomen and hind legs. He did not appear to have internal injuries, but I think that given his age and the age-related kidney disease that was diagnosed last year, the insult to his body was too much for him to overcome. Despite our best efforts, he did not recover.
Chewbaaka has been my best friend since he was brought to me in 1995, only 10 days old and seriously ill. Even as young and ill as he was, he was such a fighter that he pulled through, and he and I developed a deep bond that lasted his entire lifetime. We trusted each other completely. We were partners.
I’ve said before that Khayam, the first cheetah I raised, showed me the problem facing cheetahs, and Chewbaaka showed me the solutions. As a team, he and I demonstrated to tens of thousands of Namibian children and adults that we could live together peacefully. He made Namibians proud of their natural heritage. He convinced men who had killed cheetahs all their lives to put down their guns and work to protect this fascinating animal. He was featured in television documentaries and articles in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Africa Geographic, and Readers’ Digest. People all over the globe knew him or knew of him.
Even for a cheetah, Chewbaaka had a special bearing, a regalness that people often commented on. It was as if he knew he was the king of CCF. In my heart he will always be king of CCF.
We have been working to develop a planned giving program in Chewbaaka’s honour, called the Chewbaaka Society, and I will provide more information about that in the next few months. But for now I wanted you to know the sad news of the passing of this legendary animal, my great friend Chewbaaka.
Thank you to everyone for your concern and support during this sorrowful time.

Chewbaaka - Memories

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Chewbaaka update

Just a quick update to say that since lunchtime Chewbaaka is very weak, he is starting not to lift his head anymore He still gives Bruce a purr every now and then but is very very tired, doesn’t have the energy to eat/swallow. He is now sleeping restfully. We'll keep you posted.


Friday, 1 April 2011

The Naua Naua Six Story

On the 15th of March 2011 CCF transported six of our captive cheetahs to Naua Naua Lodge on loan: two sets of brothers: Phil, Tony and Mischief, and Chuck, Geno and Crosby.

Many of you know Phil, Tony and Mischief. They came to CCF in July 2009 when a farmer called to say he had found a CCF tagged cheetah dead in his fence line wearing a satellite collar. The cheetah was known as AJU 1555 and CCF researchers had been analysing data from her collar during this period. By mapping her movements it was heavily suspected that she had recently given birth to cubs. Traps were set near where the mother was found and our researchers’ hunch was proven right. Phil, Tony and Mischief –with sister Polly, were soon caught and brought to CCF. Upon arrival they were estimated to be around three months old. Phil is the biggest of the three and likes to boss his brothers around, especially at feeding time! Mischief lives up to his name and often gets himself into trouble; he especially has an unhealthy ability to find snakes and has had to be treated numerous times after being spat at by spitting cobras. Tony should really have been named Houdini as he has scaled numerous fences at his time at CCF and been found in enclosures he shouldn’t be in!

The other half of the Six are Chuck, Geno and Crosby, who arrived at CCF on the 12th of March 2010 and were estimated to be around 12 months old. They were trapped on a farm owned by Mount Etjo Safari Lodge after being seen without a mother and unsuccessfully hunting their game. The three cubs were kept in a large trap cage for a week in an attempt to catch the mother, but sadly she was never seen. CCF cheetah keeper Kate Echement named Geno and Crosby after the Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Hockey players Sidney Crosby and Evgeni ‘Geno’ Malkin. CCF cheetah keeper Matt Cleverley named Chuck after the action movie star Chuck Norris.

Crosby is the biggest of the three and the boldest; he is always the first to approach his keepers for food. Crosby and Geno are a little more shy and skittish. However, all three posses a very feisty display of hissing, spitting and paw slapping that have earned them the alias ‘wild boys’.

These two sets of brothers were introduced to each other in November 2010. Despite being together for several months before their move to Naua Naua, they had yet to form one tight coalition as they only appeared to socialise with each other around feeding time. Brothers Tony, Phil and Mischief are dominant over the other three; however, Crosby is growing in confidence and may be the cat to help bridge the divide between the two groups.

Exchaning or loaning animals with other locations for breeding and other purposes, allows us to care for and rehabilitate new arrivals. CCF has loaned cheetahs to Naua Naua since 2002, and they have played an important role by delighting visitors while educating them about the cheetah’s plight. In addition, the cats residing at Naua Naua participate in CCF’s cheetah genetics and health research.

The Naua Naua Lodge is located in the Outjo area, near Etosha National Park, and is perfectly adapted to nature. Due to its special location on a mountain slope, the lodge affords spectacular vistas across Africa's thorn-bush savannah and wildlife. Naua Naua has worked closely with CCF to help protect Africa’s most endangered cat.

Since the Six’s move to Naua Naua, the staff have informed us that all of them have settled in nicely at their new home and have been a huge hit with their guests who are lucky enough to meet them.

With warm regards,

Keeper Matt