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Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia

by Cheetah Conservation Fund
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Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia
Jacomina and her cubs
Jacomina and her cubs

In most cases, rescued orphan cheetahs that CCF cares for spend the remainder of their life in captivity because they have not had enough learning experience with their mother in the wild to survive on their own. However, in some cases, certain cheetahs display enough natural wild behavior, during their assessment/ rehabilitation period, to make them candidates for release. Jacomina was one of these special cheetahs. In December 2013, three female cheetahs, Jacomina, Emma and Minja, were radio-collared and released back into the wild on CCF land. The three were closely monitored and did well from the start.

Soon CCF staff decided to relocate Jacomina to Erindi Private Game Reserve. Meanwhile, Jacomina mated with a wild male and gave birth to two cubs; they were named Savanna and Shandy.   CCF staff was there to check on the mother and cubs, with a film crew in tow. Erindi, although private, is said to be a tract of land 10 times the size of Manhattan. As such, it’s home to an array of wildlife, including prey species for Jacomina as well as predator threats to her cubs.  

Around the middle of 2015, the female cubs separated from their mother to embark on their own journey as adult wild cheetahs. In anticipation of this separation, CCF staff fitted the cubs with radio collars so that we could continue to monitor their progress.  Savanna and Shandy thrived.

In May 2016, from the data collected with her GPS collar, we could see that Shandy had been returning repeately to the same location for 2.5 weeks. With female cheetahs, the time we see this movement behaviour is when they give birth to cubs and CCF researchers had determined that Shandy most likely gave birth sometime during 3 May 2016.

And most recently in July of 2017, CCF staff got visual confirmation that Savanna had given birth to four cubs. The cubs are doing well, they are gaining weight and appear very healthy. It’s an incredible success to have four more cheetahs in the wild. These cubs have an uncertain future ahead but thanks to your support we are able to monitor them and help Savanna if she needs it.

Releasing captive raised orphan cheetahs back into the wild comes with many risks.  The benefits outweigh the risks when CCF can provide a cheetah with a life in the Wild - the life it is meant to have.  We go to great lengths and costs to ensure they are successful.  By releasing orphans back into the wild after rehabilitation, CCF mitigates the negative impact of human-wildlife conflict on the cheetah population and is one step closer to reaching our goal.

 

Jacomina's Cub
Jacomina's Cub
Jacomina's Cub at Tree
Jacomina's Cub at Tree
Savanna and Shandy
Savanna and Shandy

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Mendel
Mendel

Mendel was a resident cheetah living at Cheetah Conservation Fund. During his lifetime Mendel had many sponsors like yourself, people committed to caring for CCF’s resident cheetahs. People who had a special connection to Mendel’s story of survival along with his brothers Fossey, Livingstone, and Darwin, otherwise known as the ‘scientists’. They came to CCF in 2007; sick and malnourished they appeared to be only eight months old, when in reality they had recently turned one. They have lived their entire lives since together, as a coalition. In 2014, the four brothers went to live at Kiripotib Guest Lodge near Windhoek, where they had access to amazing semi-wild spaces and top-notch care. This living arrangement ended when Mendel was diagnosed with renal disease last year. CCF staff transferred the ‘scientists’ back to CCF as a unit in order to treat Mendel. The cheetahs were so bonded with each other that it would have been extremely hard to separate them, even for a short period of time. Mendel has been cared for by CCF’s staff and receiving treatment ever since. Mendel was a model cheetah patient since he was diagnosed with renal failure but as with everyone, his time finally came. He passed away at the beginning of May.

CCFs veterinary and cheetah team were fortunate to be able to treat Mendel and provide supportive care by giving him subcutaneous fluids (under the skin) and vitamins three times a week. CCF’s cheetah team trained Mendel to eat inside a squeeze cage (a cage which was wire on all sides) that was small enough for him to not have move around much. This allowed for safe and low stress medication administration by the team. Mendel became the star of CCF as he showed interns the importance of training our captive cheetahs to be comfortable in this smaller cage which helps immensely with medical treatment. Without this care, Mendel would have not survived his first bout of acute renal failure last year.

Renal failure is one of the main causes of death for cheetahs and all cats for that matter. Although Mendel was able to have a near normal life for over a year, the underlying renal problems were there and progressing. Over the past couple of months, we began seeing a decline, as his appetite began to decrease, and the supportive therapy of fluids and vitamins were no longer helping. CCF’s cheetah team was able to obtain a blood sample from him and the results came back showing poor renal function and dehydration. This was somewhat expected after already being diagnosed with renal failure from the previous year but his organ function had gotten dramatically worse.

Although medical treatment was administered, there really was nothing more that could be done and Mendel’s health went downhill over the next week. Mendel sadly left this world and moved onto the next without perceived pain or suffering. His brothers, the other ‘scientist’s’, were never far from him and Mendel was very peaceful and relaxed in his enclosure during his last few days. We would always see him basking in the sun and watching the goats from afar – one of his favorite activities. We will miss his fierceness and his talkative nature during the cheetah husbandry where he would run with his brothers, and we will always appreciate his acceptance of us, his keepers, during his treatments over the last year. Mendel will always be our star cheetah; he certainly was one of a kind.

 
Mendel looking up
Mendel looking up

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One of the orphaned cheetah cubs
One of the orphaned cheetah cubs

In late July, five cubs came to us at four months of age with four being female and one being male. Half way through August we unfortunately had to bring in three more orphaned cubs at almost a year of age – two male and a single female – as their mother, Zinzi, was killed by a leopard.  To date, these cubs are growing in leaps and bounds and have also out grown their current enclosures.

On December 31st, 2016 the Cheetah Conservation Fund moved the 8 growing cheetah cubs into a new and larger enclosure. The five female and three male cheetahs are about 3/4 of their adult size. The group from the wild mother is now about 10 months, and Zinzi’s cubs are now about 17 months. As they were rapidly growing, their current enclosures were becoming too small, so the cheetah cubs needed a bigger space to run and exercise. The new pens are quite large at about 3 hectare (almost 7.5 acres).

The task started by preparing several large crates to hold the cheetahs as they were transferred between locations. A team of staff lifted the crates into trucks and drove them to the enclosure that the cheetahs were currently being held. They were met by cheetah noises and growls as the cubs noticed their arrival. Once at the location the crates were placed with their doors lining up with the doors on the enclosure, and the cheetahs were ushered into the crates by strategically placing staff along the outside of the pen to encourage the cheetahs to funnel in. Anywhere from one to three cheetahs were put into the crates at a time, and then the crate door was closed and the cubs were ready for transport.

Transporting the crates involved a team of four people who would each take hold of a corner and lift the crate up in a truck. The cheetah cubs rustled inside but were mostly still and calm as they were carried and driven to their new location. At the new location a similar process was followed; the crates were lined up with the door of their new enclosure and opened. The cheetahs darted out of their crates and ran quickly along the edges of the new enclosure and began the process of getting used to their new home.

The total process involved two trips and four crates. It was a lot of hard work and heavy lifting, but the process went very smoothly for humans and cubs alike, and the cubs are sure to be comfortable in their larger homes for the new year.

 

 

Crated cheetah cub ready for transport
Crated cheetah cub ready for transport
Cheetah cub released into its new enclosure
Cheetah cub released into its new enclosure

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Cheetah Cub Wary of Humans
Cheetah Cub Wary of Humans

Our orphaned cheetah cubs here at Cheetah Conservation Fund are growing in leaps and bounds. In late July, five cubs came to us at four months of age with four being female and one being male. Half way through August we unfortunately had to bring in three more orphaned cubs at almost a year of age – two male and a single female – as their mother, Zinzi, was killed by a leopard.

 

With the hope of release back into the wild when they are old and strong enough, the cheetah team has to make sure these cheetah cubs remain wary of humans and are not habituated to their presence. We intend to make every effort to keep their wild instincts intact. Very few staff members have the ability to interact with these cubs and they are not visible to the public. This is to make sure the cubs do not become accustomed to people and vehicles which is vital for their survival in the wild.

 

With the use of special feeding and care techniques the cheetah team is able to have as little contact as possible while completing their husbandry tasks. Their daily routine involves making sure the pens are intact and clear of debris, their water is fresh, and they are getting a proper amount of food. In the wild, cheetahs may not necessarily eat every day and in order to mimic this behavior, the cheetah team uses fasting days in order for the cubs to maintain a healthy digestive system. The cheetah care team sets a series of enclosures to lure the cubs into a secluded spot for meals. This allows the team to clean their enclosures and maintain distance with as little contact as possible.

At the moment, CCF has separated the males from the females in both age groups. The reason for this is to introduce the younger male, from the litter of five, to the two older males from Zinzi’s litter, in hopes they will form a coalition and then they can be released as a unit. The younger orphaned male cub will have a better chance in the wild if he is part of a coalition. CCF also hopes to repeat this process with the female cubs from both litters. This will hopefully give all the orphaned cubs a better chance of survival in the wild.

Since the cubs’ arrival, they are growing more independent and brave by the day. It is clear to see which cubs in the litters take on certain roles such as: the most dominant, the look out, and the leader. Each cub has their own personality which is a good way for the cheetah team to tell them apart along with their distinguished spotted pattern. It is good to see the cubs becoming individual’s while still remaining very wary of anyone who comes by. Their hisses, spats, and cheetah slaps are very much appreciated!

Cheetah Cub Feeding
Cheetah Cub Feeding
Cheetah Cub
Cheetah Cub

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Orphaned Cheetahs
Orphaned Cheetahs

August of this year Cheetah Conservation Fund became the guardian of five newly orphaned cheetah cubs. Their mother was killed while hunting on a game farm near Waterberg, so our cheetah team drove out to pick-up the four-month-old cubs. They had been in a trap for a few days; fortunately it’s currently winter in Namibia so they were not in danger of overheating, but they were all very scared and tired.

These cubs are very young, although we will do all we can to try to see their possible re-wilding, they may not succeed and therefore may stay at CCF for the rest of their lives. We are currently assessing their health and getting them accustomed to their new surroundings. We need support more than ever to help provide care and treatment for them. Their arrival was unanticipated and the reason they are with us is truly tragic.

These little cubs are not the only orphans new to CCF.  Just recently, Zinzi, a re-wilded cheetah, who successfully raised her wild-born cubs and has been followed by CCF's supporters for the past few years was killed by a leopard in the wild, leaving three orphaned cubs behind. On 13 August 2016, we had to say goodbye to Zinzi.  Sometime during the evening before, while travelling with her cubs Zinzi came across a leopard.  We can't be 100% clear on the specifics of what happened but it does appear that the leopard managed to catch and kill Zinzi while she was defending her cubs.  Regardless of what happened exactly, with her last act Zinzi once again proved herself a supermom as the next day we confirmed that all three of her cubs had survived the incident.  We immediately devised a plan and we successfully captured all three.  At 11 months old, the cubs would not have had good chances of survival on their own, but just like their mother we will plan to release them when they are old enough to take care of themselves. Though we are all so incredibly saddened by the loss of Zinzi, we know that her legacy will continue through her three cubs that she had raised so very well.  Zinzi's release was successful and though her life ended early, the cause was completely natural and could have happened to any wild cheetah.  

Though CCF runs a rescue, having cheetahs in captivity has never been, and never will be our goal.  As much as we can, we try our best to return as many cheetahs as possible to the wild where they belong.  This process however is incredibly difficult and the majority of our resident cheetahs are not suitable for release into the wild.

A wild cheetah, particularly a female, has a very difficult life.  From the time that she leaves her mother and any of her siblings (brothers and sisters alike), she is on her own.  The only time she will have contact with other cheetahs is briefly (just a couple days) when she is mating or when she has cubs (together an average of 18 months).  When she is mating, eating/hunting is not on the agenda and when she has cubs, she has on average four to six hungry mouths to feed in addition to her own with literally no support from other individuals.  Once her cubs are over one year of age, they will start assisting with hunts but often times they are more trouble than help as their immature antics will often ruin hunts.  The cubs improve substantially over time with teaching from mom, but by the time they really get good at hunting it's time to leave mom and head out into the world on their own and the female cheetah starts the entire process all over again.  Therefore, it's safe to say that a female cheetah is more or less 100% dependent upon herself, and for many months of her life has cubs that are 100% dependent upon her and her alone.  This is why we say all the time that female cheetahs are SuperMoms, and if you ever get to see the process first hand you will undoutedly agree.

 

 

 

Zinzi the Cheetah
Zinzi the Cheetah
Zinzi and cubs caught on camera trap
Zinzi and cubs caught on camera trap
Zinzi and cub with same intimidation pose
Zinzi and cub with same intimidation pose

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Organization Information

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Location: Alexandria, VA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Cheetah Conservation
Project Leader:
Beth Fellenstein
Dr.
Otjiwarongo, Namibia
$55,853 raised of $65,000 goal
 
875 donations
$9,147 to go
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