After her first week, Luna welcomed tourists to the opportunity to view her, but was not yet capable of hunting successfully. On 26 October, day twelve of her re-wilding, this changed. Luna managed to make her first kill at the release site waterhole. She took down an adult female impala and performed a flawless neck bite, which killed the ewe in minutes, giving the Erindi staff and tourists a memorable perspective of a cheetah’s kill. After catching her breath, she fed in the heat of the day beneath the tranquil shade of an acacia tree. As night fell, and Luna relaxed beside her kill, she was visited by the dangerous unknown. A pride of lions, known as the Etosha Pride, caught wind of Luna’s kill and quickly approached her. Two of the younger male lions charged Luna and unexpectedly she had the intuition to run, and run fast, away from these much larger felids. An encounter such as this with a proper response from Luna is a necessary behaviour for survival in Erindi. Despite never being exposed to lions in her nine years of life, and the unfortunate circumstance of being chased off her first kill, Luna managed to excel at the simple task of surviving, of taking flight.
|Luna eating her impala kill|
Since her first kill, Luna picked up on the routine of hunting when hungry, and she has managed to kill a scrub hare and a steenbok. She habitually returns to the release site waterhole to drink, which acts as the core of her range thus far. She travels to explore new areas of Erindi, averaging a 1.5-5km radius from the water point. Towards the end of her third week in the wild, Luna seems to be struggling a bit to hunt successfully again, but has been seen hunting steenbok and oryx calves. However we are still providing supplementary food between her successful kills.
|Luna killing steenbok|
Athena has embraced her newfound freedom, but is presenting us with different challenges than Luna. She is difficult to track and monitor, as she continues to avoid the tracking team and seeks safety in koppies (large hills composed of rocks/boulders), which are difficult to track on and can be dangerous due to the presence of leopards. She had hunted and killed regularly, but she still has not found a consistent water source, so we have supplemented her with water.
|Athena near a koppie|
|Athena eating a waterbuck|
At the end of October, we lost Athena’s signal and later found it outside of the reserve on a neighbor’s farm. After communicating with the neighbor he allowed us to find Athena and dart her in order to bring her back to Erindi. We successfully darted Athena and we placed her in a holding area inside of Erindi to attempt to settle her better in her new area. Re-wildling is a very difficult process, which requires constant monitoring. We will continue to keep you informed on the progress of Luna and Athena’s release.
Reporting from Erindi,
Ryan Marcel Sucaet
Asst. Cheetah Keeper & Research Asst.