Cheetah Conservation Fund

To be the internationally recognized centre of excellence in the conservation of cheetahs and their ecosystems. CCF will work with all stakeholders to develop best practices in research, education, and land use to benefit all species, including people. CCF works to: create and manage long-term conservation strategies for the cheetah; develop and implement livestock management practices that eliminate the need for ranchers to kill cheetah; conduct education programs for locals; continue research in genetics, biology, species survival
Jul 8, 2013

Keeping an Eye on Amani

Amani 1
Amani 1

Caring for resident cheetahs often requires more than just routine feeding.

About seven months ago, one of CCF’s resident non-releasable cheetahs, Amani, developed a corneal lesion on her right eye: a cloudy area with a white speck barely visible. Initially the condition did not seem to irritate her, and we really could not train a wild cheetah to take eye drops!  However, by late January 2013 the eye dramatically worsened, and the lesion progressed into a corneal ulcer. The eye began to tear excessively, and her nictitating membrane (a translucent third eyelid cheetahs have for moisture and protection) was raised, causing her to squint constantly --an indication of eye pain.

Amani thus began a series of anaesthesias. The first was to perform surgery -- suturing the nictitating membrane to the inside of the upper eyelid, thus forming a protective layer of tissue over the damaged cornea.  The surgery, performed by CCF’s veterinarian, Amelia Zakiewicz, went without complications.

Amani was anaesthesised three more times over the next couple months to assess her progress, with the sutures redone each time to allow healing to continue. By the end of February, it was clear that the surgery had not worked. The ulcer was healing too slowly.  We did a new procedure, called a conjunctival flap surgery. This two-hour long surgery involved suturing the membrane lining inside of eyelids directly to the cornea. Another eyelid flap was performed to further protect the ulcer and sutures.

On 8 April Amani was again anaesthetised to assess the conjunctival flap surgery.  The ulcer had improved, but a prolapse had occurred -- the iris had migrated into the ulcer to plug the defect. We were not pleased with this prognosis but monitor how the condition and see how it developed. However, the situation continued to deteriorate and therefore, on 22 April, after further assessment, we decided to remove her right eye, thus reducing her discomfort.

After almost three months, Amani has adapted to seeing with one eye and is capable of focusing on fences, feeding bowls and even meat treats thrown in her general direction.  She is one of the best runners in her camp and is still chasing CCF’s feeding vehicle.  She does not miss a thing!  Amani is completely off all pain-related medications and now receives only a daily Omega-3 capsule. She recovered flawlessly from the surgery; however her eye has taken on the expected sunken appearance.  We all wish Amani well, and hope that the coming months will be less problematic for her.

Amani 2
Amani 2

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Apr 9, 2013

Rainbow and Aurora

Rainbow
Rainbow
On the 8th February 2013 CCF received a call from a farmer telling us they had a young cheetah cub that was extremely weak.  They had found her on the side of the road and she obviously had not eaten for a while as she was too weak to get up and run away. Luckily for the young cub, she was taken to the farm and given food and water before the farmer called CCF.
Naturally CCF rushed to the aid of the cub and arrived a few hours later. She was extremely thin so it did not take much to place her into a crate to transport her back to CCF. After thanking the farmer for calling and talking about how he can further help the wild cheetahs, the CCF staff were back on the road heading back to CCF where they could do a better check of the cub and give her more food.
Although weak, the young female was inquisitive and watched out the window as we drove.  About twenty minutes before reaching the CCF centre, three rainbows appeared overhead which looked beautiful and peaceful; it was decided she would be named Rainbow.
After arriving at the centre, Rainbow needed constant care and attention.  Naturally in the wild, cheetah cubs would not be on their own at such a young age of roughly 3-4 months; they would always be with their mother or at least siblings, so the CCF staff had to be with her constantly for the initial few days.
Each day she would be fed small portions, which could be up to 8 meals a day.  As she was starved it was crucial to not overfeed her, but at the same time ensure she got enough food, as well as vitamins and minerals she desperately needed. Over the first few weeks Rainbow quickly put on weight and her fur and skin condition improved.
Now that her general health was not in danger it was important that we now focused on her mental health as most young cubs coming in from such a traumatic start normally become very depressed.  The staff at CCF came up with a variety of play items that she could play with from balls to toys tied on the end of string.  This way CCF staff could move around and trigger her chase response.
Because cheetahs run at such top speeds while hunting, it is imperative that they learn how to chase and catch from a young age, which in the wild would be something they learned from watching their mother. It was not long before Rainbow started chasing the toys and seemingly enjoying it.   Playing did seem to tire her out quite quickly, but this was to be expected as she didn’t have as much energy as she should have for a cub at her age.
Sadly, there was one thing that CCF staff could not replace: contact between two cheetahs, which is why it was very mixed emotions when CCF received another call from a different farmer saying he had a young cheetah cub and asking would we come and get it.
This little female cub was caught by the farmer. He kept her for roughly two weeks before calling CCF. Dr Laurie Marker went to collect the cub, but sadly for the young cub, now named Aurora, she had been taken away from her mother and siblings and had to be brought back to CCF.
Aurora was a bit feistier than Rainbow when she arrived and was not in too bad of overall condition.  She was bloated from being fed too much and had her claws cut really short, but the main thing was that she seemed very frightened. After spending a night in our quarantine pen, Aurora was anesthetized and given a full health check to make sure she was healthy, remove any parasites, and give her relevant vaccinations without stressing her out. The next morning we decided it was time to introduce her to Rainbow, as the sooner the two cubs were together the better it would be for them.
The introduction could not have gone any better.  As soon as Rainbow heard Aurora chirp she went straight over to the fence line and chirped back.  At this time, Aurora almost came out of her crate, which she had not done since we received her two days earlier. Eventually both cats met up at the fence line dividing them and touched noses. We decided that we should open the gate and see how they did together, as the keeper moved towards the fence line, Aurora ran back to her crate, however this was not a problem for Rainbow as she strolled right in and sat down next to Aurora.  After a few minutes the staff witnessed Rainbow grooming Aurora and they have been together ever since.
Every day they are getting more confident and seem happy together.  They groom each other after every meal and are always curled up beside one another.  We are very sad that the two of them have had such a bad start, but at least now they can develop with one another.
Rainbow and Aurora
Rainbow and Aurora
Rainbow and Aurora 2
Rainbow and Aurora 2

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Apr 9, 2013

The Next Generation of Protectors

A Very Special Birth
A Very Special Birth

The Next Generation of Protectors....

When one of our Livestock Guarding Dogs gives birth to a litter of puppies, it’s always a cause for celebration. Over the years we’ve placed over 400 Anatolian shepherd and Kangal dogs with Namibian farmers, and as they watch over their herds, they provide better livelihoods for these farmers, resulting in a significant reduction in the trapping and killing of cheetahs.

Every new puppy is another protector, another friend to the cheetah.

Our most recent litter, however, is special for another reason.

Cappuccino is an Anatolian shepherd. Around here we call her “Cheena.” In 2010, her mother, CCF’s Anatolian Uschi, was bred to an Anatolian male from the United States named Zor. Zor and Uschi never actually met, however. The breeding was accomplished via artificial insemination, and Cappuccino was one of the three puppies born from the breeding two and a half years ago.

Because Cappuccino’s bloodlines are so important, CCF wanted to make sure that she had a very special home. The U.S. Ambassador to Namibia, who had just lost a dog of her own prior to her arrival in Namibia, offered her home in Windhoek to Cappuccino. Cappuccino now lives with the Ambassador and her husband, serving as an ambassador in her own right for CCF’s Livestock Guarding Dogs.

Cappuccino gave birth to a litter of puppies -- four males and four females -- on 16 February 2013. She is the first dog ever in Namibia that as the product of an artificial insemination has successfully given birth to a litter of puppies.

Both mom and puppies are doing well. At a week old their eyes and ears are not yet open, and they depend on Cheena for her warmth and nutritious milk. They stay close to her throughout the day and soon they will be moved to CCF’s Conservation Education and Research Centre to begin their journey as Livestock Guarding Dogs.

While we are excited by the possibilities that this milestone represents from a breeding perspective, we are even more thrilled to welcome eight new little protectors to the ranks of our Livestock Guarding Dog Programme.

For cheetahs everywhere,
 
Dr. Laurie Marker
Founder and Executive Director

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