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Friday, 21 March 2014

Update on Athena in Erinidi

Athena was released into Erindi Private Game Reserve for the first time on 15 October 2013 alongside Luna. During this time she proved to be successful in terms of finding food by managing to kill two young warthogs, an oryx calf, a sub-adult waterbuck, and a kudu within the first few days. However, after 15 days in Erindi, Athena escaped the game reserve. On 7 November 2013, Ryan Marcel Sucaet, CCF’s Assistant Cheetah Keeper & Research Assistant, and the Erindi staff re-captured Athena and returned her to Erindi. She was then housed in an enclosure at Erindi until the current release. While in captivity, the Erindi staff took care of the cat, feeding her and habituating her to Erindi game viewer vehicles.

photo by Warren Court
On 21 February 2014, Athena was re-released back into the Erindi Game Reserve. Dr. Laurie Marker, CCF Ecologist, Matti Nghikembua, and Ryan, along with the German film crew from ZDF tivi "pur+" journeyed to Erindi to help with and capture on film the release. Athena was being held in a 1ha boma and on the day of release she was moved into a transfer crate and moved to the center of the reserve to a large waterhole for release. Just before dusk, the crate door was opened and Athena, the six-year old female, ran out. She ran a few hundred meters and settled under a tree where we supplemented her with a large portion of oryx meat. She ate calmly under the shade of trees near the water hole.

Athena defending kill - photo by Ryan Sucaet
Ryan stayed at Erindi for the next two weeks to monitor Athena’s progress. On her second full day after release, Athena killed a young wildebeest calf and later in the week a newborn springbok calf.  Supplement feeding of Athena was not necessary during the two-week monitoring process as she consistently hunted on her own. However, she was given liver treats from the Erindi game viewer vehicle to maintain her habituation as well as trust with people. She was given water on several occasions. During these first few weeks, she endured extreme weather, including violent lightening/rainstorms as well as flash floods, which produced large puddles where she was frequently found drinking. Athena averaged around 3.5km movements per day covering a large portion of the central and western part of Erindi.

photo by Warren Court
The Erindi staff continue to monitor Athena and frequently find her with a distended belly, evidence that she is hunting successfully. Today’s news was that Athena has made her way to the northern part of the reserve and has found the two CCF male cheetahs (Chester and Obi-Wan) that were reintroduced into Erindi in June 2012. We are hopeful that breeding will take place in the near future.

map of Athena's movements after release into Erindi

Last week we took another female to Erindi, Jacomina. She has been at CCF’s reintroduction training camp since the end of December where she perfected her hunting skills. She is in holding at Erindi and will be released in the next couple weeks. We will keep you posted on our cheetah rehabilitation and reintroductions so please stay tuned for future updates. Your support is vital for the success of this program and the rest of the work we do here at CCF so please consider donating to ensure our mission moves forward. For more information please visit our website at

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Week of the Book

I have been traveling a lot so far this year. I just returned a week ago from my two week lecture tour in the UK and EU and was in the UAE for nearly two weeks before that. I’m now home but the last week has been hectic to say the least! On my return from the EU driving back from the airport, we met German children’s TV “pur+” crew at Erindi Private Game Reserve and released Athena, one of our cheetahs that was in a holding camp there getting her used to the area. The release went very well and she is now hunting and thriving. It also rained and rained this past week and our thatch roofs are still leaking, so we have covered the roofs with big plastic tarps and when the wind blows the noise is impressive to say the least.

at Erindi with the pur+ crew
We have had our share of snakebites. The day I left for the UK one of our favorite livestock guarding dogs, Feliz, was bitten and died nearly instantaneously. It was horrible, and the bites have continued. I was home only three days when my favorite horse, Shandi, came into the barn with what appeared to be a snakebite on her back leg. It was swollen, nearly double the normal size and she was in great pain. That night our veterinary and horse team stayed up with me till around 11:30pm injecting Shandi with anti-inflammatory medicine, anti-biotics, and bags of IV fluids. We were all very worried that night and for the next several days until the swelling decreased and she was able to go out with the herd again. We then had to bring Jacamina, one of our cheetahs being rehabilitated in from the field to stitch up a wound on her rear leg.  The same day one of our goats was bitten by a snake on her neck. As the inflammation increased the next 24 hours it literally started to strangle her. We did an emergency tracheotomy with the surgery lasting long after midnight. Bruce had to keep our generator running (it turns off around 11:00pm) to finish the surgery.

working on Jacomina with the pur+ crew
While all these emergencies were occurring I was trying to finish up the final edits of my book, A Future for the Cheetah. A few days later, this past weekend, one of our Anatolian Shepherds came back from a farm due to having a mass cell tumor the size of a grapefruit. Luckily, we were able to extract the mass and are very pleased the morning after surgery and now, two days later, she is doing fine. We are hopeful the tumor was completely removed. It will be shipped to a pathology lab for closer examination to see if the mass was removed in whole. The next morning we had to bring Bella in from her camp to stitch-up a wound on her shoulder. It has definitely been one crazy week!

Karibib doing well in recovery after her surgery
Whilst all of these events were ongoing, the final edits for the book went to the publisher yesterday. Along with two major grant proposals that needed completing this weekend as well! Our CCF team is amazing as we have pulled through several days of long hours under unusual circumstances with much success.

Dr. Laurie Marker