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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
Zinzi at CCF
Zinzi at CCF

There really is nothing quite like tracking a wild cheetah. A week or so ago, myself, another one of our cheetah staff and a couple of volunteers, went out in the afternoon to locate one of our collared cheetahs, Zinzi. We were additionally excited because we knew Zinzi had become a first time mother only a month or so before. We had been keeping track of her den sites and when she moved her cubs to new dens, however we had not really seen her often. We only knew what we could see from our daily satellite downloads from her satellite collar which gives us five fixes per day. Although Zinzi had been spotted during this time, the alleged cubs had never been seen, as they do stay in their den sites, not following their mother, for the first month to 6 weeks. It wasn’t being said out loud, however it was obvious that everyone was thinking ‘this could be the day we see the cubs’.
 
It started out as it always does, driving dirt roads along fence-lines, standing in the pickup of the white Toyota, holding an antenna in the air and a receiver to my ear. And then we heard it… ‘Blip…. blip…. blip’. “She’s close, stop the car!”. Judging by the telemetry equipment, we guessed she was about 300 meters straight into the bush. We gathered up the essentials and then we were off.

If you have ever attempted to pick through acacia branches while wielding bowls, sticks, telemetry equipment, while scanning the area for a potentially protective mother cheetah and also attempting to avoid falling into warthog holes then you know it is a challenge, to say the least. But as the ‘blip…blip’ from the receiver got stronger and stronger, everything we were carrying seemed to get lighter and lighter. We stopped in a small clearing with an overwhelming feeling that she was watching us. We then heard the ‘snap’ of a twig breaking and there she was, walking slowly towards us, head and tail low, taking long deliberate strides. With a low growl she charged at us before she stopped and stood silently, staring at us. Then she calmly turned around and walked slowly back in the direction that she had come from.
 
That’s when the calling started. Zinzi was emitting a low chortling, followed quickly by a sharp yelp, over and over again; her focus aimed at the tall grassy area barely visible through the low hanging acacia branches. We were so absorbed by Zinzi’s calling, that it took a second to register what we were also hearing, swirled in the songs of the birds in the bush. ‘Chirp… chirp!’. A tiny, high-pitched chirp, only slightly distinguishable from the bird calls, but there was no doubt about it; the chirps were being made to answer Zinzis’ call. It was her cubs.
Zinzi casually walked back to the place she had approached us from and flopped down as if we were not even present. The calling continued as we stared, fixed on that area, and then we saw it. At first, just the grass waving in a way that it shouldn’t and then a tiny, silvery streak of fur bounding through the grass; the mantle of a one and a half month old cheetah cub. As quickly as it had appeared, it vanished behind Zinzi. It didn’t feel real, but it was. The cubs did exist!
 
We continued to hear chirps from several directions, and mixed with this sound was also the sounds of a cheetah eating. When we were slowly able to switch vantage points, it was obvious that Zinzi had made a fresh kill and was calling the cubs to her. Seeing this was our cue to retreat. We left with a feeling of satisfaction that she was doing her job. Being able to observe Zinzi being a successful mother in the wild, as well as her feeling comfortable enough to share that moment with us was unforgettable.

Check out this photos below of Zinzi taken by CCF's post-release monitoring team! In the phto of Zinzi looking like she might attack, this sort of intimidation behaviour is frequently observed in our released cheetahs when they are being supplementally fed by the monitoring team. Though these cheetahs were rescued and rehabilitated here at CCF, they are still afraid of humans and are only willing to approach when food is offered, which is necessary to their success in the wild. Zinzi continues to do very well and has been out in the wild on her own for almost 1 year now!

Zinzi and Deborah upon release
Zinzi and Deborah upon release
Zinzi - Post-release monitoring
Zinzi - Post-release monitoring

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B2 is Now One Year Old!
B2 is Now One Year Old!

Our youngest cheetah, B2 is now one year old and has been bonded succesfully with Phoenix. The two are doing great together and B2 is settling into his new home with his new coalition mate nicely! CCF was pleased to host some of the management of B2Gold and their guests during a visit to the CCF main campus yesterday. B2Gold operate the nearby Otjikoto gold mine, which came into production late last year and is an important addition to the Namibian economy. B2Gold has been a wonderful donor to CCF and our ecology staff assist in biodiversity research on the mine’s set-aside ecological reserve. The most recent addition to our resident cheetahs, B2, is named after B2Gold.

CCF has a new resident cheetah – Romeo. He was a farmer’s longtime family pet. Recently the farmer and his wife had to leave their home for assisted living and released Romeo into CCF’s care. Although he was very well cared for and is a very sweet cheetah, the practice of taking cheetah cubs as pets is generally not allowed. We are thankful that he was so well cared for and that the farmer entrusted CCF with Romeo’s future care. He will be integrated into CCF’s other orphans and hopefully create some lifelong bonds with members of his own species. Romeo recently underwent a full health check, under anesthesia. We took some genetic samples to be stored and he recovered perfectly. We will keep you posted on his progress and socialization with the other cheetahs here at CCF.

Dr. Léart Petrick, a Windhoek eye specialist with a practise focused on serving humans, recently travelled to Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) to perform an operation on a different kind of patient. Khayjay, a four-and-a-half-year-old cheetah that has lived at CCF since he was three weeks of age, successfully underwent a 45-minute surgery to address a chronic, debilitating eye problem.

“Khayjay’s left eye was creating excessive amounts of discharge, causing him discomfort and interfering with his vision”, said CCF veterinarian Dr. Mari-Ann DaSilva. “When Khayjay was not responding to our initial treatment protocol, we decided to examine him thoroughly under anaesthesia”.

Dr. Da Silva consulted with Dr. Petrick, who agreed that surgery was the best option. The operation was performed at CCF on 6 January, with Dr. Petrick bringing his own special ophthalmology tools. Dr. Petrick has practised in Windhoek for approximately 10 years and occasionally makes his services available to assist veterinarians with domestic animals. Khayjay’s surgery marks the first time he has operated on a cheetah.

“Khayjay’s problem is the result of long-term inflammation, and the procedure I performed is fairly simple”, said Dr. Petrick. “Khayjay seemed to respond well to the surgery. We anticipate he will make a quick recovery and have full use of the eye”.

During the surgery, Khayjay’s third eyelid was sutured shut to act as a natural bandage. It will remain closed for a few weeks to allow the eye to heal. Eye ointment is being applied five times a day. “The sutures are absorbable and will dissolve on their own. At that time, his eye should be well into the healing process and function normally”, said Dr. Da Silva.

““We are so pleased to have a resource like Dr. Petrick in the community who is willing to step outside of his normal practise and donate his services to help us with one of our orphan cheetahs”, said Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of CCF. “We don’t have many veterinarian specialists in the country, so having an interested human specialist is wonderful. Having healthy eyes and clear vision is just as important to cheetahs as it is for people.”

We are very pleased to share that our cheetahs are all healthy and well as we enter our dry season!

P.S. GlobalGiving's first matching opportunity of 2015 is Wednesday, March 18th! GlobalGiving is offering a 30% match on all donations up to $1,000 per donor per project, while funds remain. There is $60,000 available in matching and matching begins at 9:00:01 EDT and lasts until funds run out or 23:59:59 EDT. There is also $2,000 in bonus prizes available! 

Romeo Has Been Settling in Nicely at CCF
Romeo Has Been Settling in Nicely at CCF
Windhoek Ophthalmologist Helps Save Cheetahs Eyes
Windhoek Ophthalmologist Helps Save Cheetahs Eyes
KhayJay is Healing Well
KhayJay is Healing Well

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B2 at 5 months
B2 at 5 months

Named after a friend of CCF, B2 arrived at CCF in August when he was just 4 months old. As a young cub without his mother, B2 required lots of care and staff attention and resources to keep him fed, healthy and happy!

It has now been four months since we rescued this amazing cheetah and he is doing very well and has made a full recovery here at CCF. On 4 December, also International Cheetah Day, B2 ran with the lure for the first time! This was very exciting and he was curious and responded very well.

Currently, CCF keepers are working to bond B2 with another solo male, Pheonix (one of our hand raised orphans who is six years old). Hopefully, before too long, the two males can share the same enclosure. When we first began introducing B2 to our other cats, he would sit with his back against the enclosure's fence, and ignore the other cats as they vocalized and hissed. With time and paitence, we are very please to share that they are doing well now! We are very excited about how they are getting on. A slow process, though, spending a few hours a day together with us monitoring closely. B2 really seems to enjoy his new pal.

Rescue efforts like this take a lot of staff time and resources, and can be very costly. We are very pleased that members of the local community know that they can depend on CCF to help care for wounded and orphaned cheetahs. Rescues such B2's would not be possible without your support.

 

B2's first time running with the lure
B2's first time running with the lure
B2 (7 months) bonding with Phoenix
B2 (7 months) bonding with Phoenix
B2 is growing very quickly! He is now 8.5 months.
B2 is growing very quickly! He is now 8.5 months.
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During out last update, four of our orphaned cheetahs were released back into the wild. Over the past few weeks CCF staff members have been in Erinidi monitoring the progress of the cheetahs who were recently released, and Jacomina is doing fabulously!

Jacomina successfully hunted an adult male steenbok. This is a great step forward in her rehabilitation and release, but CCF's monitoring team will continue to keep close watch over her until she is entirely sufficient on her own.

Jacomina and her cubs are doing well under the watchful eyes of CCF's monitoring team.

Sometime in August, Jacomina sprained her front right leg while hunting but she remains vigilant and her cubs are thriving.Though it's slowed down her hunting behaviors, the sprain is looking better everyday. CCF's monitoring team is still keeping a close eye on her to ensure she and her cubs are okay and is providing assistance whenever necessary. This photos below were taken while Jacomina and the cubs were scanning their surroundings from atop a termite mound!

Please stay tuned for future updates on Jacomina and her progress in Erindi and consider supporting CCF to ensure conservation efforts such as this one can continue!

 

 

 

Jacomina and her two cubs in Erindi
Jacomina and her two cubs in Erindi
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Feeding Goats
Feeding Goats

When you arrive at CCF you will be probably overwhelmed by all the information that you get. A million facts about cheetahs are explained to you in the museum of the visitor centre. Shortly after you will be taken to a safety and security briefing around CCF. While you are still thinking about the snakes, scorpions and spiders you should avoid you are already shown around on CCF’s land and where you will be sleeping for the next couple of weeks. There several work spaces in the office, nothing unusual. A poster on the wall shows a manager in a business suit saying “Volunteers are wonderful people.” I wondered why?

Lying in bed trying to process all the new information, the names of all the people and fighting the mosquitos this poster was still stuck in my head.

After your first night you try to fit into the routine at CCF. Almost every day you receive a different task. The tasks range from feeding cheetahs, releasing them into the wild, walking dogs, assisting with cheetah surgery, helping with goats, counting game to scanning documents for databases. The list goes on. Working days are long and exhausting. After all don’t expect a cheetah to forgive you if you decide to feed only on the next day just because it’s 5pm ;) On the other hand they will also reward you. One of them came to the fence on the day I was leaving, looked at me with her big orange-brown eyes and started to purr to tell me goodbye. I immediately knew that all the hard work paid off.

The animals already make your stay worth it. Where else can you encounter oryx, kudu, jackal on your morning run? But the people I met, made my stay unforgettable. The employees come from all around the world and they have so many stories to tell. Everyone enjoys what he is doing and this spirit is contagious. I felt welcome from the first minute. Usually tasks are assigned to more than one person so there is always someone to talk to if for once the work is not super exciting.

Obviously the after work activities couldn’t have been more fun. Getting a drink on the old water tower and enjoying the picturesque view on the Waterberg. The soccer games with the farmworkers. Playing card games until late at night or sitting at the fireplace and chatting. Everything had one thing in common. The people I met at CCF were wonderful. Maybe that manager on the poster was not so wrong after all. It should say though: “The people at CCF are wonderful!”

Cheetah 2
Cheetah 2

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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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