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Friday, 27 April 2012

Tigerlily's First Medical Checkup

One of the medical checkups we did this month was on ambassador cheetah Tigerlily, now 20 months old. She was brought to the clinic on 6 April and, as it is customary with all workups, a thorough health exam was performed including blood collection, transponder placement, measurements, kidney ultrasound and a good listen to the heart and lungs.

She was also treated for a recent growth on her right front leg. Based on appearance, the growth could be a benign nerve tumour or an abscess. The mass was removed and skin closed and we will await the lab results from Idexx in South Africa. She then received prophylactic antibiotics and pain medication. Tigerlily recovered well and was soon back in her pen with her three siblings. Her sister Senay was anaesthetized the following day, while brothers Peter and Kaijay had their procedure a few days later. Everyone is doing great.

Below are some photos during and after Tigerlily's workup and one of the four siblings enjoying a beautiful day at CCF. 

Rosie Glazier, DVN
Veterinary Nurse

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

First Kangal puppy litter placed!

I met Kiri’s eight puppies during my visit to CCF a couple of weeks ago. I feel lucky to have met them because they were just about to be placed within a few days of my departure! They are beautiful, very healthy, and definitely a handful!!!

You might remember that Kiri is a Kangal that gave birth to eight puppies on 31 January. She was bred to CCF’s Kangal Firat, who was kindly donated to us by French breeder Bonnie Blue Flag.

In late March, the puppies underwent their routine sterilization surgeries (photo).  Only some of the puppies in the litter were sterilized since a few will go on to be future breeding animals for CCF’s livestock guarding dog program.  Our vet Gaby explained the procedure to me. “The puppies first received a full physical exam to ensure they are healthy enough for surgery.  Then they were anaesthetized, given oxygen and anaesthetic gas via an endotracheal tube, and attached to anaesthesia monitoring equipment like a temperature probe, an ECG, a pulse oximeter, and a blood pressure monitor, just like in a human hospital!  The puppies also have an IV catheter placed and receive IV fluids to keep them well hydrated during the surgery.  A microchip transponder is inserted under their skin for future identification, and blood samples are taken for genetic analysis and general health evaluation.”  All the procedures went well, and the puppies were back in the kraal with their mom in no time.

As Kiri does not belong to CCF, half of her litter went to her owners, who took two of the puppies to their farm and placed two with friends as working dogs.  Of the four CCF puppies from the litter, two were placed as working dogs, while a male and a female will be breeding dogs because their genetics are quite valuable. 

We wish all these puppies a happy and healthy life saving cheetahs!


Swing Gates to Reduce Human-Cheetah Conflict

On many farms across the world, fences protect animals inside their borders whilst keeping predators out. At CCF however, we also have the reverse situation: during a cheetah release in our Bellebenno game farm, we would like to keep the cheetahs inside the camp.  In a normal game-fenced area, cheetahs and other predators can move freely through a fenced-in area using the holes that ground-digging species like warthogs, porcupines and aardvarks make under the fence. When farmers find cheetahs inside their game or livestock camps, they could run the risk of being trapped or shot as they may prey on their animals. Therefore, we have developed and are currently testing a non-lethal predator control system: swing gates. These are comparable to cat flaps, where digging species can range freely between farms without digging holes, whilst, when closed, they leave no visible opening for predators to move through. While researching the effectiveness of our swing gate system, camera traps have confirmed that the gates are used by different digging animals, but rarely, if ever, used by predators.

Our swing gates have considerably lowered the number of holes dug along the fence line, greatly reducing the amount of predators moving in and out of the camp, whilst keeping the cheetahs in the release area! Research is currently being conducted to determine which environmental factors influence the creation of holes between the gates from animals such as warthogs.

Swing gates provide farmers with an affordable alternative to the most conventional and expensive predator protection, i.e. fence electrification, which is good news for cheetahs! If the usage of non-lethal predator controls like swing gates becomes more common, this will reduce the chance of cheetahs and other predators getting into enclosures with valuable animals inside, which may decrease the human-wildlife conflict and subsequent killing of threatened animals such as the cheetah. So indirectly, the use of swing gates has the potential to increase the cheetah’s chances of survival!


Joël Kasser

CCF Ecology Intern

Photos (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Cheetah Annual Examinations 2012

As in past years, the CCF team did  annual health examinations on CCF’s resident cheetahs this month.  The cheetahs were brought to the clinic individually for various sample collections, for example, blood, vaginal swabs, semen for sperm study and preservation.  These samples will be analysed to assess the current health of all our captive cheetahs and any abnormality can be picked up and treated accordingly.  Vaccinations and parasite treatments were also done to maintain good health.  All the procedures went well and all cheetahs are in good health. We will be posting updates on some individual cheetahs.


We have included some photos showing the team listening to the cheetah’s heart and lungs; veterinarian Gabriella Flacke performing kidney ultrasound; dental assessment of crowded lower incisors; and sperm freezing in process.


Thank you


Rosie Glazier, DVN 

Veterinary Nurse

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Update from the Ecology Department

Now that the dry season is nearly upon us, it has become much easier for us to go out into the bush to conduct our necessary ecological fieldwork.  Each month, we conduct a variety of different game counts to monitor the health and population statuses of the prey species that cheetahs and other local carnivores target.  This becomes tricky when the roads are very muddy, especially when driving night counts!  Fortunately the rains are now stopping and we are able to drive without fear of getting stuck in the middle of the bush.

So far in April, we have already completed our circuit counts, which are where we drive on set routes around CCF farms that contain a variety of different habitats.  We were lucky enough on the last night count to spot not just one, but two aardwolves!  Aardwolves are the smallest of the hyena family, but unlike their cousins, do not hunt large prey.  Instead, they target termites and other small insects.  It is just as important for us to monitor the population statuses of other carnivores within the CCF area alongside cheetahs to determine whether the ecosystem is working as a functional unit.  Every organism in a healthy ecosystem plays an integral role in the overall maintenance of the system, therefore, as ecologists, we are interested in understanding how diverse our land and how complex the food web is. 

Night counts are the best time to see most carnivores, as many of them prefer hunting in low lights that provide a cover of darkness for effective hunting.  Also whilst on the same game count, we came across two separate small spotted genets, which are cat-like mammals related to civets, fossa and mongooses.  It is good to see that other carnivore species appear to be doing well on CCF land!

All the best,

Cheetah Conservation Fund