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
Jun 9, 2016

Zinzi Update and more! Cub Sighting and Eye Injury

Zinzi
Zinzi's Cub

Zinzi Update – Cub Sighting and Eye Injury


Unfortunately for us, Zinzi’s collar failed in April and we lost track of her and her cubs for a few weeks. The only information we had on her during this time was visual sightings by a neighboring lodge. The couple of times that she was seen by the lodge staff, they only saw three of her four cubs. From this information we had assumed that she likely had lost one of the cubs which is statistically common in cheetahs.


Then in a turn of luck, two Sundays ago another neighbor saw two young cheetahs around one of his waterholes and notified us. We went over to his property right away to have a look and found Zinzi! We immediately mobilized a team at CCF who met us in the field where we darted Zinzi and changed her collar. We tried to capture the cubs using Zinzi to tempt them out of hiding, but Zinzi was too clever and never called to them. We did not catch any of the cubs but we did get a glimpse of them and some photos later.


As soon as we let Zinzi go she immediately started calling and searching for her cubs and kept it up for five minutes afterwards! We put out a large chunk of meat for Zinzi, and our neighbor put up a camera trap at the meat. We were able to get images of all four of Zinzi’s cubs using the camera traps!!!! (see top image) This was unexpected so you can imagine how excited we were to learn of this. We later got a visual on all four cubs together with Zinzi and they all look to be in great condition!


We do have one concern with Zinzi at the moment. Her left eye is injured and sight in that eye has become compromised. We are not sure of the extent of blindness in the injured eye, but it seems there is a chance it could heal, so we are hopeful.

Cheetah Transfer: The Scientists


Back in September of 2014, CCFs coalition of male cheetahs nicknamed ‘the Scientists’ made the move to a guest lodge near Windhoek, called Kiripotib. Since this group is non-releasable back to the wild, this was a good alternative where they would have plenty of natural space and receive lots of care and attention.

At the end of February 2016 CCF received a call from the lodge letting us know that Mendel, one of the males, didn’t seem himself and was refusing food. CCF sent a team down to the lodge to assess Mendel’s condition and it was decided to bring him back to CCF for further testing. CCF anesthetized Mendel upon arrival at the Centre and took blood samples, along with checking his overall condition. It was found from his blood results that he may be suffering from acute renal failure. At his age of ten years old, this is not unheard of, as many older cats suffer from renal issues. Since his renal failure was most likely not chronic, the decision was made to treat Mendel with fluid therapy and see if this improved his condition. After several days of training, Mendel became comfortable enough to eat his meals in a small cage where keepers were able to administer subcutaneous fluids while he ate several times a week. This seemed to improve his overall condition and demeanor and he has seemed healthier every day. However, there was still something missing.

Mendel, being a member of a male coalition, is very bonded to cheetahs Fossey, Livingstone and Darwin. The four had never spent any time apart up until Mendels’ treatments. The decision was made to reunite the group at CCF, since Mendel will continue to require regular medical treatments that CCF is equipped to give. Since CCF was also home to a group of four non-releasable females, Bella, Padme, Kayla and Kiana, those four females would make the move down to the lodge and the males would return to CCF, in a grand ‘cheetah swap’. The living situation at Kiripotib is ideal for the females because of their pen layout; Kayla and Kiana would be able to have their own living space separate from Bella and Padme, relieving the tension that the two groups of females traditionally expressed towards each other.

CCF keepers’ first step was to capture the four females in crates and load them into a van for the six hour drive down to the lodge. Kayla and Kiana seemed particularly suspicious, so a lot of training in the weeks prior to the move was necessary to keep things running smoothly. All were quickly captured the morning of the move and off the team went, four cheetahs in tow. By the time the vehicles arrived at the lodge, it was evening and the sun had just set. The females were taken to their new enclosure and, once the males were moved into a small separate area, let out to explore. Although slightly confused at the change of scenery, all four females showed interest in their surroundings and especially the unfamiliar males in the adjacent pen. Kayla and Kiana had originally arrived at CCF with the Scientists in 2007, and although perhaps unknowingly, the original six were briefly reunited.


The following morning as the sun came up, the CCF team arrived at the cheetah pens to see how the females were adjusting to their new surroundings and to the capture the three remaining Scientists, Fossey, Livingston and Darwin for the second half of the move. The females, although cautious, approached their keepers for food. Kayla and Kiana didn’t leave each others’ sides, taking turns keeping watch diligently. When it came to the capture of the three males, they proved to be extremely food motivated and were quite cooperative.


Once all three males were captured without incidence, the van was loaded up, and the females checked on last time, the CCF staff headed back to CCF to reintroduce all four coalition-mates. After the journey, Fossey Livingstone and Darwin were released into a large pen adjacent to Mendel’s pen, so they could have a chance to adjust and familiarize themselves with Mendel again before the reunion. They adjusted to their new pen almost immediately, the made it theirs by scent marking every tree.

Reports from Kiripotib tell CCF that the females are adjusting well and seem to be enjoying their larger space, although they possess a stubborn streak that the males seem to lack. Although CCF misses the females, stubborn streak and all, it is nice to know that they are enjoying their new space.


Although the group dynamic has changed since Mendels separation, with Fossey and Livingstone claiming dominance of the group in Mendels absence, the four reunited without major incident and Mendels’ frequent purrs of contentment demonstrate that the reunion was a success. Mendel can now continue his treatments alongside the cheetahs that have been his lifelong companions.

Camera trap photo showing Zinzi and her cubs
Camera trap photo showing Zinzi and her cubs
Zinzi
Zinzi's old cracked collar, and newly fitted
Padme blending in to her new enclosure
Padme blending in to her new enclosure
CCF staff capturing Darwin for the transfer
CCF staff capturing Darwin for the transfer
All four together on a cold morning
All four together on a cold morning

Links:

Mar 17, 2016

Seeing Spots

Spots working with the LSGD
Spots working with the LSGD

Seeing Spots

Spots is not your average Livestock Guarding Dog. First, he is from the Netherlands. He came to CCF about 9 or 10 years ago from a partner big cat organization called Stichting SPOTS (Save and Protect Our Treasures). Second, his life is anything but average. Besides being a worldly, well-traveled canine, Spots loves to work and is known to be something of a teacher. So when CCF received a telephone call from a farmer with problem cheetahs who was considering shooting the animals as his next move, CCF offered to loan him Spots services as a Livestock Guarding Dog, a non-lethal and albeit temporary alternative.

The farmer, who is also a leader within the Namibian Agricultural Union, gladly accepted and Spots has been working in the field since last November. So far, Spots has successfully discouraged predation, and no cheetahs have lost their lives. Spots will remain on the farm until CCF has a Livestock Guarding Dog puppy to give the farmer, then Spots will come back to CCF. But before he does, Spots will help raise the puppy, imparting his excellent work ethic and guarding dog skills as the pup’s role model.

New Pens for Pups

In attempt to keep up with the demand for puppies, we have been producing more litters of Livestock Guarding Dogs than ever. This is great news for farmers and cheetahs, but not so much for the dogs that live here on our model farm. We are at capacity with our dog housing facilities. We need to build three more dog pens ASAP to accommodate all of the new puppies we will be expecting soon.

Herkul, Herkul!

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true -- our ambassador-in-training Livestock Guarding Dog Herkul just turned six months old. From the appearance of this strapping young fellow, you would never think he had such a difficult time entering this world, or that he was the sole survivor from a litter of four, fighting just to stay alive. Today, Herkul spends his time practicing the social skills necessary for him to successfully interact with the public.  He also spends time hanging out with other CCF dogs on the ambassador track, like scat sniffing dog Finn. Getting older, Finn is no longer working full time in the field and is being groomed as an ambassador representing the scat-sniffing dog program. His calm demeanor and even temperament provide a good behavior model for Herkul, and hopefully this will rub off. The good news is this lovable pup is excellent with people and other dogs and is already exhibiting signs of having the right type of personality to become a successful ambassador. This and the fact that he began his training at an early age, give him a leg up on the competition – plus it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s so darn handsome!

Keeping Score in Hereroland

It’s been a little more than a year since CCF began work in Hereroland with the Greater Waterberg Landscape Initiative, bringing Future Farmers of Africa training courses and veterinary expertise to rural farming communities in this remote area. So far, all signs are pointing to success.

“Every month in eight villages, CCF staff offered trainings -- a total of 82 in 2015 -- and the response we received was overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Laurie Marker. “Part of what we found is that farmers really appreciated the information we provided for them. We determined that about 65% of losses could be resolved through better livestock management, meaning better livelihoods are in their own hands.”

Through the trainings, CCF staff found the basic veterinary care they were teaching – things like hoof trimming, de-worming, and vaccinations -- were not getting done for most livestock animals. All are simple procedures, yet critical for good health.

“Before we came along, no one ever helped the farmers learn about this or other basic livestock care,” said Andrew Di Salvo, CCF Veterinarian.

To encourage farmers to engage in better livestock management practices, Dr. Di Salvo and a veterinary student visited the farms in the region. While there, they assessed the farmer’s operations and checked on the animals, discussing any problems and offering advice on how to fix. During each visit, Dr. Di Salvo and his assistant assigned a rating to the farmer and recorded it on a scorecard to track his or her progress. On subsequent farm visits, the farmer will be assessed on how well he or she implemented CCF’s advice in order to achieve a higher score.

“Better quality livestock will bring in better price,” Said Dr. Marker. “We will focus on improving this area for the next five years, and we will train paravets at CCF from each of the eight focal areas -- people who are interested in animal healthcare – to help us get the scores up.”

New dog pens!
New dog pens!
Herkul
Herkul
A pup with dogs
A pup with dogs

Links:

Mar 17, 2016

Zinzi and Family on the Move

One of Zinzi
One of Zinzi's Cubs

Zinzi and Family on the Move

CCF is happy to report that Zinzi and her four cubs are beating the odds and all are doing well.

“It’s hard to believe it’s already been five months since they were born. I just got to see them last month for the first time, and it was so great!” said Dr. Laurie Marker. “They are back on CCF land after venturing off property, living now in the Little Serengeti where there is a lot of wild game.”

According to her satellite-tracking collar, Zinzi has done some major moving with her cubs in recent weeks. For safety, she has been moving her cubs to new nests each night, traveling up to 15 kilometers during the wee hours. The two male and two female cubs are faring well, because at their age life is all fun and games. But it is exhausting work for Zinzi, who must hunt during the day, leaving her only a few hours each morning to sleep. Hers is an example of the Cheetah Supermom in action

Jacomina’s Cubs Get Satellite Collars

Back in the beginning of February, CCF staff with a news crew from CNN’s Inside Africa in tow ventured to Erindi Game Reserve to place satellite collars on Shandy and Savannah, the adolescent sisters born to rewilded cheetah Jacomina. The 20-month old cats were wearing VHS collars from age six months, but the new collars will enable CCF researchers to better track their movements.

“I am pleased to report both girls are in good health,” said Dr. Laurie Marker. “They are together now, but will probably separate in about four months when they begin mating. The collars will help us see what is going on with their social lives. We are learning that cheetahs have a matriarchal-dominated society. It’s very interesting, and we hope we will learn a lot from these two young females.”

(watch out Tiger Mothers, the Cheetah Mothers might displace you).

It’s Not All About Cheetahs

For one month beginning in late January, CCF Operations Manager Brian Badger hit the road on an international awareness building tour and goodwill mission taking him to more than a dozen zoos across the U.S. and the UK. The purpose of his trip was to communicate with the general public and zoo staff about CCF’s programs and holistic approach to conservation. Along the way he fortified relationships with some of CCF’s old friends and even made some new ones.

“It’s amazing how many people’s eyes were opened at the zoos – the keepers, the directors, and everyone else, Sure, the Bushblok program has obvious benefits, helping the environment and helping wildlife, but there is economic value in Bushblok, in creating jobs and in helping form a whole new biomass industry,” said Brian Badger. “It’s exciting to see people getting it, making the connection in their minds. Now we hope they will become good at communicating about it, so they can in turn inform their audiences. They were surprised at first, but now they understand when I say it’s not all about cheetahs.”

Badger’s U.S. tour landed him in chilly Washington, D.C., where he was given a warm reception by a group of CCF supporters before embarking on the first stop of his tour. Highly sought-after as a guest by the zoos, Badger’s busy itinerary took him through the Midwest, across the south and parts of Florida, before winding up back in the Mid-Atlantic region where he began.

“I’ve lectured at college and universities, at zoos and other events before, and I’ve also presented on TV and been a guest on radio, so I am very comfortable in this public speaking role. My aim is to educate people from around the world on the workings and goals of frontline conservation. It’s not al doom and gloom, there are successful things going on. There is potential for the future,” said Badger.

Badger was thrilled to get to peek behind the scenes at so many zoos, from the smaller community and independent zoos to the larger, better-funded zoos. His favorite event was a pre-Valentine’s Day program at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore titled “Sex at the Zoo,” exploring unique mating rituals in the animal kingdom. “The crowd had a few drinks by the time I spoke, so they were very receptive to my humor,” added Badger.

Badger’s trip afforded him a number of personal firsts. Among them his first Uber experience (“the driver, she was very nice, very personable and cheaper than a cab,” remarked Badger), his first shrimp Po’ Boy, in Jackson, Mississippi (“delicious”) and his first $20 hamburger (“tasted like three bucks”).

“After 30 years in the conservation world, I have come to believe that real conservation, conservation that succeeds and is sustainable, requires a group of people who bring a diverse set of skills cutting across many disciplines. Today’s modern zoos have many talented people working on their staffs. We need zoos to play a part in our conservation strategies, to educate audiences and to bring their talented staffs to the fight.               

Jacomina
Jacomina's cub being recollared
Brian Badger, CCF Operations Manager
Brian Badger, CCF Operations Manager

Links:

 
   

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