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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Dairy goat breeding at our model farm

Cheetah Conservation Fund strives to be a centre of excellence for training farmers about how to manage their livestock in an integrated way with wildlife.  We are proud to show all visitors, students and farmers our onsite model farm, which displays livestock husbandry best practices.  We have herds of cows, sheep and goats and we are in the process of building a business to help sustain CCF’s important conservation work with the sustainable use of milk from our dairy goats.


On 29 May 2012 the clinic performed ultrasound exams on the most recently bred group of dairy goats to determine pregnancy status.  These six does, named Safire, Indiria, Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Kimberley, were bred to our new buck, Ou-Raam, about two and a half months ago.  The gestation period for goats is 155 days, or approximately 5 months, so we will be expecting this group to kid at the end of July.   


Ultrasound exam confirmed all six were indeed pregnant - good news!  Since this is the first pregnancy for each of these females, they will likely only have one kid each.  Often on subsequent pregnancies does will give birth to twins.  Once the females give birth, they will become part of CCF’s milking herd, producing goat cheese for conservation.


We shall keep you updated about the progress of these new dairy goats.


Best wishes,


Gabriella Flacke DMV


Cheetah Conservation Fund


Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012



Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Cheetah Dental Work

On May 23rd, two of our older captive cheetahs went to Otjiwarongo to see a human dentist, Dr. Dennis Profitt.  We are very fortunate to have the generous and gracious Dr. Profitt available to perform dental work on all our cheetahs with dental issues in order to help keep their teeth as healthy as possible. 


The two most recent treatments were two extractions and a root canal for Rosy, and two extractions for Misty.  Most often when a tooth is broken or damaged, he will try to preserve the tooth by performing a root canal.  However, when advanced periodontal disease develops, which can be age-related or due to impaction of bone or foreign material between the gums and the teeth, the teeth will sometimes need to be extracted due to secondary infection and periodontal bone loss.   


Fortunately there are plenty of teeth in the mouth, and despite having a few extractions these two cheetah females will go on being able to eat with no long-term problems.  In fact, removing and treating the infected teeth will reduce oral pain and inflammation and make them much more comfortable in the long run.  And they will still have pretty smiles!  Thank you Dr. Profitt for your on-going generosity and care of CCF’s cheetahs.


Best wishes,


Gabriella Flacke DMV


Cheetah Conservation Fund


Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Monday, 28 May 2012

Alien Invasive Species Removal for Improved Ecosystems

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is known for helping to rescue and protect cheetahs. Yet, this is only a part of what we do in our mission to save this threatened species and the habitat in which it lives. A team consisting of interns, volunteers and Earthwatchers, lead by the Senior Ecologist Matti Nghikembua, is dedicated to fighting off alien invasive species that are taking over cheetah habitat: the Mexican poppy (Aregmone ochroleuca) and the thorn-apple (Datura inoxia).  Both of these plants are not native to Namibia, but are present here in huge quantities, and when they take hold, it is difficult to get rid of them. CCF is trying to change this.

Why care?

Nutrients in the soil allow plants to grow, which are eaten by herbivores and omnivores, who are in turn eaten by cheetahs and other predators.  When these animals die, their carcasses provide nutrients for the soil, thus maintaining the cycle of energy. However, the animals of Namibia are not specialized to eat either the unpalatable Mexican poppy or thorn-apple so, instead, the cycle is broken. These plants grow unregulated, spreading across the land and using up valuable nutrients, water and space that would otherwise be used by the native and eatable plant species of Namibia.

Our progress

Our first priority, because the thorn-apple is toxic, was to remove all of these plants from the areas around our model farm that our goat herds have access to. From there, we moved on to clearing other areas on CCF property infested with these plants.  Our most recent accomplishment was removing a massive infestation at Cattle Dam in our Osonoanga Reserve.  Unfortunately a similar affliction awaits us in other areas around the property. Wish us strength!


Marnel Müller

Ecology Volunteer

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Yet another cheetah re-wildling on the way!

Following the removal of the “Scientists” male coalition of cheetahs from the Bellebenno training camp earlier this month, Friday the 25th of May was an exciting day at CCF: yet another cheetah re-wilding was initiated! CCF’s staff transferred Padme (5-year-old female) and Bella (4-year-old female) from their normal enclosure to be released into the camp for the first stage of their re-wilding process.


Whilst here, the two females will face all the environmental factors they would in the wild and will therefore gain all of the necessary skills for survival in the wild. In captivity, Padme and Bella relied upon CCF’s cheetah keepers for food and water, but in the Bellebenno training camp they will learn to find water and make kills on their own. Though they are now acting on their own accord, CCF’s experienced staff are monitoring them daily to track their development and to ensure their well being.


This first step is crucial in the re-wilding process as the cheetahs are essentially learning how to be wild cheetahs. We never know how long they will need in the Bellebenno training camp to gain these skills, but we will keep you posted on their progress. Padme’s brother Obi-wan is a member of the group of males that were re-wilded late last year, so Padme is now following in her brother’s paw-steps and hopefully some day soon they will both enjoy a life of freedom in the wild.


Best wishes,

Eli Walker

CCF Student Intern


Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Tempesta Blog Update

It was a sad day for CCF on Saturday, May 19th, when we had to euthanize Tempesta, a 9-year old cheetah who came to CCF in late 2003.  She had not been eating for several days and hadn’t been feeling well for about a week previously.  However, since animals are very good at masking signs of illness, she had been declining slowly over the last few months until she reached a point where she could not longer compensate.  She was in severe kidney failure.  Her kidney values were almost too high to be measured, indicating her kidneys were no longer clearing toxins out of her bloodstream.  An abdominal ultrasound exam was performed and showed a very small, misshapen left kidney.  A wild animal unfortunately cannot be treated and hospitalized like a tame pet, and so giving her fluid therapy and supportive care was not an option.  But in this case, given the severity of her kidney disease, she would not have recovered even with aggressive medical treatment and we did not want her to go on suffering.  A decision was made by the veterinarian, the cheetah curator, and the general manager to euthanize her, rather than cause her unnecessary stress by attempting treatments that would be unlikely to help her feel better.  We were grateful for the fact that once she became noticeably ill, she went downhill relatively quickly rather than being in distress for a long period of time, and now she is no longer suffering. 

Her post mortem exam revealed that both of her kidneys were actually quite abnormal, with the left one being very small and scarred, indicating it had likely not been functioning for quite a while.  Even her right kidney, the “healthy” one, was very abnormal in structure even though it was not shrunken like the left one.  Unfortunately kidney disease is fairly common among felines, both in domestic cats and large felids like cheetahs.  Generally the condition occurs in older animals, but young cats can also be affected with a condition called polycystic kidney disease which can cause kidney failure at an early age.  Tempesta was middle-aged for a captive cheetah, but older by “wild” cheetah standards.  We are happy that she enjoyed a comfortable life here at CCF during her tenure with us, and she was extremely well cared for and loved by her caretakers. 


Best wishes,


Dr Gaby Flacke



Photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Digital Radiograph Machine Installed

Today was a big day for the Vet Clinic at CCF and the Organisation as a whole.  A fully-donated digital radiograph unit (x-ray machine) was installed!  After being installed by a helpful lady called Michelle, it is now working very well and was experimented on two animals – Senay, one of the Okakarara Ambassador cheetahs, and retired livestock guarding dog, Tylee (see attached photos). 


We are all looking forward to making use of this wonderful new piece of equipment, which shall make faster diagnoses rather than having to trek into town for x-rays, and will allow for various exciting research opportunities in the cheetahs’ anatomy and dental structure!   


All the best,


Rosie Glazier, DVN


Veterinary Nurse

Cheetah Conservation Fund


Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Monday, 21 May 2012

New Boer Goats in our Model Farm!

The newest life at CCF does not purr and lick, nor does it bark or scratch.  These week-old creatures have disproportionately large ears, gangly and unsteady limbs, vast orb-like eyes, and tiny, pink cloven hooves.  When they aren’t sleeping or drinking milk from their protective mothers, they are gamboling and capering around their pen, attempting to butt heads or jump onto higher surfaces, and – spoiler alert – making the most heart-melting bahh-ing sounds.  CCF is happy to announce the birth of six indigenous Boer goat kids!

The six kids (5 females and 1 male) were born to three healthy Boer does.  There were no complications during any of the births and all mothers instinctively began to clean, feed, and examine their kids.  The kids all have white bodies and either milk or dark chocolate colored heads.  They are all spry and inquisitive, exploring and frolicking until they collapse into a pile and sleep.     

Though birth in the kraal is met with less fanfare than most cheetah news, it is in fact an illustration of what makes the Cheetah Conservation Fund an internationally recognized centre of excellence: CCF is committed to developing the best practices in education, land use and conservation to benefit all species, including humans.  CCF is dedicated to teaching and working with farmers harmoniously, as well as leading by example.  The livestock farm at CCF’s headquarters Namibia is a model farm used to exhibit techniques and practices by which livestock and wildlife can be properly managed, eliminating the need for farmers and ranchers to kill wild cheetah.  The kraal at CCF is currently home to Boer goats, Damara sheep, mixed-breeds of dairy goat, and the Anatolian shepherds and Kangal dogs who guard the flock both inside the kraal and out in the field. 

Boer goats were developed in South Africa in the early 1900’s for meat production and were therefore the logical choice of breed for this model Namibian farm.  CCF’s model farm exemplifies the predator-friendly livestock management techniques of establishing calving seasons, using calving kraals, having herders, and using dogs as livestock guardians, to name a few.  The success of the model farm demonstrates that wild cheetah can continue to live on Namibian farmland without hindering the farmers’ way of life or harming their livelihood.  CCF is encouraged that there is now far greater awareness of the cheetah's role in the ecosystem, and an increasing number of farmers adopt predator-friendly livestock management practices and fewer cheetahs are being killed.  While these new lives have started without ceremony or drama, as is the natural way, their healthy birth and their symbolic role in the Cheetah Conservation Fund is concomitantly a celebration of the prosperous future of the wild cheetah.

Molly Stock
Clinic Intern

Photos copyright © Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Update on the re-wildling of four cheetahs

On 18th April, CCF released a coalition of four male cheetahs into a soft release camp, Bellebenno, for them to enhance survival behaviour before being released into the wild


Day 15: 2 May 2012

Early in the morning the coalition was beginning to move away from the captive females the other side of one of the fence lines of Bellebenno.  They were scent marking and hunting along the way.  The males eventually came across a play tree where Livingstone climbed and scratched its low splayed branch.  Soon, the foursome arrived at our campsite, where they sniffed around at the ground.  If any of them attempted to scent mark or drink here I would have had to scare them away, but the cheetahs just sniffed the unfamiliar human dwelling.  Shortly after 10:00 the coalition, led by Fossey as always, made their way back to the captive females where they continuously scent marked their territory.  It was refreshing to know that the males were willing to leave the captive females to hunt, although all were unsuccessful today.  They were  showing great promise this morning.


Day 16 & 17: 3 & 4 May 2012 

It was another roundabout day filled with territorial scent marking and unsuccessful hunting.  It has been nearly a week since their last kill and the coalition seems more lethargic than desired.  If they do not make a kill tomorrow morning, we will intervene and provide the four males with a supplemented warthog carcass.


A refreshing morning away from the captive females, the Scientists were on the move attempting to make a kill in their newly guarded territory.  It was not until the cats separated when we found Mendel scavenging on the intestines of a fresh warthog kill from another predator.  Joël (a CCF intern) and I went to find the other males.  A kilometer away, we found Fossey, Livingstone and Darwin all ravagingly feasting on a male steenbok kill!  Their third kill and it was not nearly enough for three famished cheetahs.  They consumed quickly; so fast, in fact, that Livingstone eventually vomited his portion up.  With two cats (Livingstone and Mendel) that virtually ate nothing today, I decided to feed the coalition half of a warthog carcass.  They devoured the free meal and rested the remainder of the morning, before accomplishing their ritualistic scent marking along the fence line of the captive females’ pen.


Day 18 & 19: 5 & 6 May 2012 

For two days now, the coalition has been continuously marking their territory and pacing the fence line in hopes that one of the captive females would appear.  Luna, a previously released female, would stutter call to the males, driving them into frenzied pacing and calling.  The males would roll on their backs with the sight of Luna following her every stride.  Despite ample opportunities to hunt, the Scientists were more addicted to the enthralling movements of Luna. 


Day 20: 7 May 2012

Three days since the Scientists’ steenbok kill/supplemented warthog carcass and it was growingly apparent that they were starting to get hungry.  They left the captive females early and began moving to new areas in search for food.  Along the way, they discovered another playtree where Livingstone, Fossey and lastly Mendel all climbed and scent marked.  Later the coalition had futile attempts at hunting zebra and warthog.  The males’ hunting skills are often short of efficiency.  They still have a bit to learn in order to be successful and sustainable cheetahs.  Closing the night the males returned to the captive females and marked their territory again.


Day 21: 8 May 2012

Giving the Scientists another chance to sharpen their hunting skills, Rachel and I decided to recapture the males and relocate them to Sukkel Dam, the furthest watering hole in Bellebenno away from the captive females.  Once the relocation was complete we re-released the males and they all began drinking from the waterhole.  Within twenty minutes, all four were seen attempting to hunt oryx and warthog.  Throughout the afternoon the coalition was observed hunting more frequently than ever before.  It may be impossible to keep these males away from the captive female cheetahs, but relocating them will at least give them a higher probability of learning successful hunting skills when not preoccupied by the females’ allure.


Day 22: 9 May 2012

The coalition was moving vast distances again, comparable to the beginning of the release.  Hunting seemed to be their priority, as they attempted to run down oryx, zebra, and warthog.  Around 10:30, Mendel eventually took down a sub-adult warthog in the middle of a road.  He exhibited a proper strangulation hold on the warthog after the 150m chase.  It was good to see that the coalition seemed to be managing fine after the relocation.  By the afternoon, they were on the move again.  Unfortunately they made a beeline 4km straight back to the captive females in less than an hour.  Afterwards they returned to their drinking puddle, which was mostly muddy water as the sun had evaporated the majority of its water; the cheetahs reluctantly drank.  It can be assumed that the coalition will always return to this territory and hunting will be put aside to scent mark the perimeter of the females’ fence line.


Day 23: 10 May 2012

A freezing cold morning and we found all four males lying beside the road in tall grasses huddled on top of one another for warmth.  After a stretch of the forelimbs, back and hind legs, the males began their search for food.  They abandoned the captive females and made their way through the Bellebenno re-wilding site.  On the quest for a kill, the males came across one of the game camp’s watering holes, where, after a brief hunting attempt, all four drank.  Afterwards, the coalition stalked zebra more patiently and proficiently than ever observed before, showing the power of trial and error.   Undoubtedly, with time these males will hone their stalking, hunting and killing techniques and will eventually be able to brave the wild.  After a long morning of failed hunt attempts (oryx, zebra and warthog), the Scientists rested beneath the shade of several trees until later returning to their captive female-occupied territory.


All the best,

Ryan Sucaet

Head of Cheetah Reintroductions


Monday, 14 May 2012

A day in the life of a Working Guest at CCF

This blog was written by an American returning Working Guest, John MacDonald, and recounts his time at CCF compared with his last visit in 2011.


Day 10 of placement - This morning we held a cheetah run with the Okakarara Ambassador cheetahs; it was the first time I had seen them since last June - they have almost doubled in size!  This was the first time Tiger Lilly had participated in a run since the removal of a growth on her right front leg.  Based on her performance, it appeared the leg is completely healed.  The cheetahs were very enthusiastic and ran extremely well.  

Later in the day I accompanied, Dr Laurie to the “Silver” pens with Gaby our veterinarian and Mathieu - a young veterinarian volunteer from France who is helping CCF for several months.  The object was to capture the male Josie for his annual check-up.   At twelve years old, he is one of the oldest cheetahs at CCF.  After he was darted by Gaby, we transported him to the clinic.  Later in the day I checked in on him.  With the exception of a few minor dental issues, he passed his physical with flying colors.


Day 13 - Today was devoted to working at CCF’s model farm, where we demonstrate predator friendly farming techniques to local farmers, including the use of Anatolian shepherd dogs to protect the flocks.  The farm contains dairy goats, whose milk is used to create cheese sold under CCF’s name.  The farm also contains Boer goats and Damara sheep.  Our task this morning was to de-worm all of the goats and sheep.   Gaby and Mathieu were assisted by Martha and Molly, two vet nurse interns, myself and Tyapa, the Kraal manager.  There was well over one-hundred-and-fifty animals – we had our work cut out!  As we completed our task and started packing up our equipment, Gaby said that we needed to next go to de-worm the three rams, which were in separate enclosures.  With a bit of a twinkle in her eye, Gaby asked, “Mathieu why don’t you, John and one of the farm staff members go and get the rams?”  No problem: we sallied forth into the next goat pen.   I don’t know what a ram looks like, but we were staring directly at this huge white billy goat, named Apollo, and he was staring right back at us.  I am not sure who was chasing who, but the term “goat rodeo” does come to mind.  After several unsuccessful attempts at catching him, we decided to coerce him into a smaller enclosure so he would be easier to catch.  We again stared at each other, this time across a smaller space.   We made our move toward Apollo and he toward us; I was in the lead.  Having played quite a bit of football, I wondered how hard it could be to tackle a goat?!  The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air to land ignominiously on my backside!  I think my pride was hurt more than my behind.  I like to think my effort slowed Apollo down so that the other two men were able to catch him.  He was then successfully de-wormed. 


For the next two rams, one of which was a big fellow, with  long  crimson hair, and an impressive set or curled horns,  indeed like a ram: no billy goat this one.  This time I let my partners take the lead, while I stood a distant third allowing them to absorb the initial momentum from our furry friend.    Fortunately we were able to masterfully catch the last two rams without going airborne.  Our de-worming mission was successfully completed without any further mishap.


Day 14 - Residing in the US, it is a unique experience to travel to CCF and interact with people from all over the world.  We had an Ambassador cheetah walk scheduled with a group of 15 senior citizen tourists from France, most of whom did not speak English.  Our handlers included Adam, a CCF employee from Australia, Suzie, a long-term intern from the UK, Stephanie, an American CCF employee, and myself: none of us spoke French.   Fortunately the tourists brought along an interpreter, so Suzie spoke in English, which was then translated into French for the audience.  Regardless of languages, it was clear everyone was enthralled with the Ambassadors, evidenced by the many questions asked.


Day 15 -   Today we relocated Donner and Dexter, two male 20-month-old cheetahs that were brought to CCF as orphaned cubs, to different enclosures.  Donner is the darker of the two cats with an impressive mantel.  The last time I saw him was last June when he was still a cub and was residing with his two sisters, Skiet and Kekay.  Every time we would approach their enclosure to feed them, the two sisters would retreat to the farthest corner of the enclosure.  At the same time, Donner would puff himself up and approach us positioning himself between his sisters and us, letting us know in no uncertain terms that he was their protector.  A year later and almost full grown, he is developing into a fine adult male cheetah and has not lost any of his assertiveness.   Hopefully their independent spirits will serve them well should they be included in any future release program.


One of the best things about volunteering at CCF is that no day is the same and you never know what to expect.  It is a fantastic learning experience for both young and old alike.  For more information on how you can volunteer, please visit

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The OK Ambassador Cheetahs

The group formerly known as the OK Cubs (‘OK’ stands for Okakarara, where they were originally from) - Peter, Kaijay, Senay and Tiger Lily - cannot really be called cubs anymore. At almost 21 months old, these cheetahs are quickly becoming adults and are really stepping into their role as the Ambassadors of CCF. For those of you who are new to our blog, these four siblings arrived at CCF in 2010, when they were just three weeks old. Because they were so young, it was necessary to bottle-raise them, which led to the unique opportunity of raising cheetahs as ambassadors for their species. These ambassadors are an extremely important education tool for teaching the general public about the cheetah’s biology, conservation and threats. This task varies from meeting the general public on cheetah walks when they visit the CCF centre, to being brought out for farmers and school groups. Seeing cheetahs without a fence in between them and the cat allows people to form a more emotional connection with the animals and therefore sympathise more with their continuing struggle for existence.


A great deal of time and energy has gone into the training of these four cheetahs in order to ensure that they become successful ambassadors. This training is an ongoing process that involves continued human contact, but they should never be thought of as pets. These cheetahs are, and should always remain, wild animals and should be respected as such.


As ambassadors, the OK cats meet many influential people. For example, in January of this year, they met British High Commissioner, Marianne Young on her visit to CCF, as well as the Namibian Minister of Environment and the US Ambassador to Namibia. Additionally, another important part of the OK Ambassadors’ job is to meet school groups, both Namibians and internationals. For the kids, meeting a living, breathing cheetah up close can make a much more significant impact, and will hopefully help spark a passion for conservation as these children grow up.


The OK Ambassadors even help educate people during their lunch hour! In January, they joined the ranks of the other cheetahs at CCF’s centre, which are fed daily for visitors to view. This is an important milestone in their training, as previously they were fed away from the public eye. They started eating with the other centre cats when their diet changed from two meals a day to one per day, like the other adult cheetahs at CCF. Feeding in front of visitors gives CCF the perfect opportunity to teach visitors about the cheetah’s diet, while they witness the cheetahs eating first hand.


This April, the Ambassadors were anesthetized for their first annual medical work-ups. They had measurements taken, their teeth checked, and blood samples collected, among other things. Tiger Lily had a small growth just above her front right paw that was removed and sent to the lab for identification (more information on this on our 27 April 2012 blog). The procedure went well, and has been healing nicely. Peter and Kaijay were given contraceptive implants, so that as they mature, all four ambassadors can still be kept together. 


Usually, when the Ambassadors go on walks around the centre, we make a stop at the clinic to weigh them. This has allowed us to consistently measure their growth. Unfortunately, our walk-on scale malfunctioned a couple months back and so we haven’t been able to see how they have been growing since the beginning of the year. However, we took the opportunity to weigh them while they were anesthetized for their annuals earlier this month. Peter was the biggest, weighing in at 41 kg! The ambassadors are unlikely to grow much bigger in height, but will continue to gain weight over the coming months. Peter and Kaijay may reach close to 50 kg, while Senay and Tiger Lily will likely reach their mature weight around 42-45 kg.


In order to maintain the Ambassadors’ fitness, we try to exercise them on the lure system at least once per week – an activity open to the public. Currently, they are some of our best runners, and continue to impress visitors and staff alike.


We shall continue to update you on their progress as the very important role of Ambassadors of their species.


Steph Cunningham & Suzie Kenny

OK Ambassador Cheetah Handlers



Photos copyright (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012


Monday, 7 May 2012

Second installment of the latest cheetah re-wildling project

On 18th April, CCF released a coalition of four male cheetahs into a soft release camp for them to enhance survival behaviour before being released into the wild


Day 8 of re-wilding: 25 April 2012

The ravenous males were found on the minute remains of yesterday’s oryx kill.  The carcass was cleaned to the bone as the cheetahs continued crunched the rib bones. Afterwards, we collected two scat samples from Fossey and Mendel that would later be sent to our genetics lab for further analysis.  Throughout the day, we followed the coalition beneath a canopy of extremely dense bush, led by the dominant Fossey.  The males did not mark as they roamed across the reserve, suggesting the voyage was not territory maintenance.   During the day, we noticed Mendel limping off his right front leg, as well as on Livingstone’s left front leg.  We notified CCF’s vet, Gaby Flacke, and we will keep a close eye on both of these males to see if they worsen.


Day 9 & 10: 26 & 27 April 2012

The coalition was on the move again, again led by Fossey.  They led us through the dense depths of Bellebenno’s game camp, occasionally marking trees along the way.   They attempted several unorganized hunts on eland bulls, oryx and warthog, unfortunately coming out unsuccessful.


The following day John (a returning CCF volunteer) and I did not find the cats until 07:20, as they had moved a large distance from the previous night’s location.  Upon our arrival, we witnessed an injured sub-adult female oryx running away: all four males then went on the hunt.  We watched as Mendel had a less-than impressive neck-bit on the oryx, biting only a thin layer of skin on the side of the neck while Darwin started to eat the already opened hindquarters.  They were hunting properly, but not killing efficiently.  The gorging continued throughout the midday as all four ate themselves into a soft and sleepy food stupor.


Day 11-14: 28-1 May 2012

Within three days, the coalition found water from a broken water pipe that puddled in the road and had several unsuccessful hunting attempts.  Their hunting strategies were weak as they were lacking the element of surprise.  They would randomly come across a prey species along the road and then trot (almost playfully) after it in plain sight.  Fossey continued to lead the other three males to water.  Hopefully his leadership will direct the males towards their next meal.


Stay tuned for more updates on the re-wilding project!


All the best,

Ryan Sucaet

Head of Cheetah Reintroductions


Friday, 4 May 2012

Update on the Scientists' Re-Wilding

On 18th April, CCF released a coalition of four male cheetahs into a soft release camp for them to enhance survival behaviour before being released into the wild


Day 2 of the Scientist’s re-wilding: 19 April 2012

The four males were found quite close to their release site.  As the sun came through the densely covered bushes, the cheetahs began to move.  At one resting spot, an oblivious female duiker came within 20 m of the coalition.  One by one, they became alert of the animal as the duiker drew nearer.  Suddenly, Fossey sprinted towards the female in a quick 80 m chase, although unfortunately the hunt was unsuccessful.  Later on, the males made a large circle around the release sight, where Fossey and Mendel were seen marking large-trunked Boscia trees, scratching their bases.  All four males were then seen hunting an unknown prey species (possibly warthog).  Afterwards they came to the water hole, where Fossey and Mendel started to drink.  It was a relief that we did not have to worry about them finding water anymore.  In the evening, we followed them westerly towards the tumbling sun: an overly successful second day.


Day 3: 20 April 2012

Within minutes of an early start to the morning, three of the four males had Rachel and I running through the bush after them. A hunt led by Mendel, Livingstone and Darwin led us to an amazing sight:  Livingstone’s body was pressed tightly between the horns of a massive adult oryx; Darwin was forcefully biting the throat in a proper strangulation hold; Mendel, tripping the back legs of the oryx, constantly biting its hindquarters.  The coalition was successfully hunting in cooperation on their third day!  Eventually the oryx thrashed the males off one at a time.  After 40 minutes of resting, the oryx remained laying in shock.  Suddenly the missing Fossey miraculously appeared, silently trotting out of the bush headed directly towards the weakened oryx.  His hunt attempt was not the best, as the prey instantly stood up and scared Fossey off.  Finally all the cheetahs retreated and the oryx ran away virtually unharmed.  The rest of the day the males rested, as it seemed the hunt aspirated all their energy.  The two smallest males (Livingstone and Darwin) seemed to be showing the most promising behaviours when it comes to hunting thus far.


Day 4 & 5: 21 & 22 April 2012

Within seconds of finding the coalition, Rachel and I observed the foursome eating away at an adult zebra carcass.  Spots consuming stripes, the cheetahs ate away at the hindquarters of their massive kill.  Upon further inspection of the zebra, we noticed that there was no sign of a proper neck bite, and later in the day, Dr Laurie Marker paid us a visit and noticed that the zebra’s back left leg was severely injured.  These males may have stumbled upon a freshly dead, or slowly dying zebra and instantly began to feast.  In the late afternoon a large grouping of giraffes inquisitively watched as the males gorged themselves.  The giraffes slowly approached the spectacle and inched closer and closer.  The cheetahs were vigilant of these towering mammals, but never strayed from their meal.


Throughout the following day and night the coalition was observed constantly eating the zebra.  They ate rather peacefully, but an occasional growl and cheek-bite would occur.  One of the males popped the bloated stomach of the carcass, which made a deflating balloon-like sound scaring all of them running.  Confused by the loud sound, they gradually made their way back. Deflating the gaseous stomach allowed for easier access to open new areas, as the skin was not as tightly pressed anymore.  Darwin and Livingstone were also observed covering the carcass with dead grasses as soon as the stomach popped, masking the emerging putrid odor. 


Day 6: 23 April 2012

The coalition was on the move throughout the day, with Fossey, as usual, leading the way.  They were marking unchartered territories by spraying and scratching trunks of Boscia trees.  They came across warthogs on a road but made no attempt to hunt.  By the afternoon monitoring session, Rachel and I found the boys nearly four kilometers from their previously observed spot this morning.  They continued to the night following the road, uncovering the unfamiliar corners of Bellebenno game camp.  Of all the releases I have done, these males have chartered the longest distances in their first week.  With great amounts of skepticism concerning their first meal/kill, we are hoping that they will be able to make another one in the following days.



Day 7: 24 April 2012

This was a day filled with walking, marking and hunting!  The Scientists were on the move again, walking virtually a half of Bellebenno’s 4,000 has in one day!  It was not until the afternoon when a proper hunt took place.  The males emerged from a mid-day’s rest and began walking down the road to our captive females’ pens.  Suddenly, all four cheetahs ran, and soon the death cries of an oryx were heard.  Rachel and I sprinted upon a sight where Fossey was attempting to take down a sub-adult male oryx.  Darwin was biting and successfully opening the thrashing antelope and Livingstone guarded the potential prey victim from us.  After nearly five minutes of struggling to get a proper neck-bite on the oryx, Fossey gave up.  In stepped Darwin (one of the smallest males), who took down the oryx and followed with a proper strangulation hold killing the oryx quickly.  It was a conquering feat in the re-wilding of these males, proving their ability and strength in hunting; they spent the rest of the day and evening indulging on their well deserved, first kill.


Stay tuned for the next installment of the re-wilding project soon!


All the best,

Ryan Sucaet

Head of Cheetah Reintroductions


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Cheetah Annuals Final Report

In Namibia, April arrives with the flurry and frenzy of annuals in the air:


Most of us are familiar with that feeling we get about once a year when we realize it’s time to make a doctor’s appointment. It’s a hassle and a drag, but it must be done.  Now imagine planning annual examinations for 50 cheetahs to be performed over a three-week period.  Most of these cheetahs are wild animals that understandably take offense to being placed in a wooden box or darted with tranquilizer.  This daunting task makes dragging a kid to the dentist look like a walk in the park. 


But the CCF staff are not lacking in knowledge, training, or experience.  These experts run the show like a well-oiled machine, working tirelessly to ensure these precious creatures receive the most thorough health examinations whilst undergoing the least amount of stress.  The team is the cheetah’s tenacious advocates, ensuring the resident cheetahs have the most optimistic prospects for success in the release program and ultimately survival as wild cheetahs.


The clinic and cheetah husbandry teams are happy to report that this year’s annuals ran smoothly and that all resident cheetahs are in good health.  A few individual cheetahs required additional medical treatment or supplemental procedures performed while under anaesthesia for their annual examination, though none of them will suffer from any lasting health problems. 


Notes from the clinic:


As tough and strong as big cats’ teeth may seem, cheetahs sometimes need the dentist, too.  During his annual examination, Darwin received a visit from our local dentist in town for a replacement root canal.  The old root canal was resealed and Darwin received a clean bill of health.  He was then released along with the other three “Scientist” males, Livingstone, Fossey, and Mendel into a soft-release training camp to prepare for eventual release into the wild (see previous blog).   


Ron, a smaller, young male was castrated in the hopes that he will eventually rejoin his sisters in their camp.  There were no complications during the procedure and he recovered without incident.  


During daily cheetah husbandry, the cheetah keepers noticed Deborah, a young female, making unusual coughing and retching motions.  During her annual examination the following day, the source of the unusual behaviour was discovered: Deborah had a 1.5 centimetre piece of bone lodged between two molars that had also caused a secondary laceration and ulceration on the bottom of her tongue.  The bone was removed and the affected area cleaned.  She appears returned to full fitness and is eating and acting normally once more.


The clinic team successfully collected blood, scat, vaginal and semen samples from all cheetahs for analysis and subsequent treatment of any abnormality.  Hair samples will be studied, as will any ectoparasites (ticks, fleas, flies) collected.  With clean bills of health, life for CCF cheetahs returns to normal.  The cheetahs will continue to be monitored on a daily basis as always by the cheetah husbandry team and in conjunction with the clinic team when needed. Overall, annual exams were a success! 


A special thank you goes to all volunteers, especially Dr. Martha Johnson (human anaesthesiologist) and Karen and Mike Burke (cheetah keeper and animal trainer from the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park) for all their help and hard work!


Molly Stock - Intern


Photos copyright © of Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Another cheetah re-wildling underway!

CCF is proud to announce that yet another cheetah re-wilding is underway.  On the 18 April, a coalition of four male cheetahs named Fossey, Darwin, Mendel and Livingstone were released in to our Bellebenno training camp in order to prepare them for a permanent release elsewhere.


The 3,000-hectare camp offers all the environmental variables that the cheetahs can expect to encounter once released: prey animals, threats such as leopards and hyenas, potential competitors such as black-backed jackals, and limited watering locations are all among the lifestyle changes that the group will need to learn to negotiate in order to become successful in the wild.  As a coalition of male cheetahs is a natural occurrence, it is expected that the four males will remain a tight team of cooperative hunters, further increasing their chances of survival in the wild.


The males were released early morning from wooden transport crates next to a waterhole with one last free meal provided to them to entice them out of their crates. They exited with surprising confidence, circled the immediate area briefly, before homing in on the meat.


Although now acting of their own accord, they are being carefully monitored by experienced CCF staff in order to gather as much data on their progress as wild cheetahs as possible. All four individuals were fitted with VHF radio collars prior to release, allowing us to track their movements and observe their development. 


The group will not be in the position to learn the crucial skills of life unless both cooperative hunting techniques and confidence are forced by an empty belly.  It appears they learnt quickly, because several days after their release, they were seen eating a dead zebra!  What’s perhaps more impressive is that they managed to maintain possession of the zebra throughout the night and into the following day from other predators in the area.  They have also managed to successfully hunt and kill an oryx since their release, so it is great to see their hunting skills are becoming finely tuned.


The coalition will remain in the camp until all the skills necessary for survival have been not only learned, but rehearsed enough times to give us confidence in their abilities to live in the wild, free of human intervention. This may take a few short weeks or several months to acquire. We will keep you posted on their trials and tribulation over the coming weeks.




Photos copyright © of Cheetah Conservation Fund 2012