Animals
 Namibia
Project #2521

Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia

by Cheetah Conservation Fund
Zinzi
Zinzi's Cub

In 2009, Zinzi, a 10 – 12 month old female cheetah, was captured by a farmer in the Karibib region of Namibia with no mother or other siblings. The farmer who caught her called CCF and the staff transferred her to CCF’s headquarters outside of Otjiwarongo.

Zinzi was orphaned at a much older age than we normally see. From the very beginning of her life at CCF, she had all the desired qualities that we look for in a release candidate. Cheetahs live with their mother until they are between 18 to 22 months of age, and it’s in the last few months that cubs learn how to hunt. In the wild, the male and female cubs remain with each other for a few months after they leave their mother. They hunt together during this time, as they are still not very skilled, but as a team they have more success in catching prey.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) operates a sanctuary for orphaned wild cheetahs that have lost their mothers at too early an age for self-sufficiency. In some cases, orphaned cheetahs are not suitable for release back into the wild. Imprinting on humans and loss of fear for humans can cause cheetahs to become problematic to local livestock. Under the right conditions, our research proves that certain individuals (normally those orphaned at an age of 6 months or older) display the necessary behaviour and characteristics (most notably a solid fear of humans) that make them suitable candidates for release back into the wild. CCF strives to rehabilitate and release these individuals. We have developed reliable methods for management and monitoring released cheetahs to maximize their chance of survival.

This was the case for Zinzi. Once at CCF, Zinzi was put in our 200 acre Bellebeno camp, an enclosure with other females of similar age and temperament. Here the cheetahs that have the potential for release are given limited human contact in order to maintain an appropriate level of wildness and shyness with humans and are exercised daily, chasing behind the feeding truck before being fed.

Zinzi spent nearly three years at CCF before being released back into the wild on June 2014. When we opened her transfer box she ran like a shot, and we did not see her again for an extensive period of time. We knew where she was by monitoring the GPS points provided by her satellite collar. During the first six-months of her release, Zinzi was only seen by the monitoring team a handful of times. Normally, a successful release depends on an intensive, month-long, post-release monitoring period. During this period the individual is checked up on regularly by the monitoring team. During this period, the monitoring team can provide assistance to the animal if necessary, through supplemental feeding and watering, until that individual is entirely self-sufficient. Zinzi never needed support or assistance. CCF teams regularly found the remains of her kills and saw consistent movement data transmitted from her GPS collar.

Releases and re-introductions of animals (whether wild or captive born) have been taking place for decades but, until recently, few criteria have been established to define success of such initiatives. Ultimately the main objective of these efforts is for the released individuals to contribute, through reproduction, to the already existing wild population. Zinzi was released into an area with a small population of cheetahs. Our research in Namibia has shown that cheetahs naturally live in a low density, of between 4 – 12 cheetahs per 1000 km2. On 12 September 2015, data from Zinzi’s satellite collar indicated that she had likely given birth to cubs and on 1 November 2015 CCF’s monitoring team saw the four cubs for the first time out of the nest. Rehabilitation success revolves around reproduction and survival. Therefore, we so far consider Zinzi’s rehabilitation a success.

So far, Zinzi has raised these four cubs entirely on her own, and this is a feat in itself, as often mortality is highest under three months of age. But, there is at least another 1.5 years until these young cubs will be able to care for themselves. Zinzi most certainly faces numerous challenges in the months to come, but she is well on her way to success and, if her performance over the last year and a half since her release is any indication of the next months ahead of her, her chances are good!

Zinzi
Zinzi's Cubs
Zinzi
Zinzi's Healthy Cub

Links:

Tracker App
Tracker App

We are sending you a very special update to let you know that from Monday, 21 September through Friday, 25 September, GlobalGiving will be offering a one-time 100% match on all new recurring donations up to $200 per donor! To qualify for the match, donors must give at least four consecutive months.

We know this is a bigger commitment to ask of you, but we are very excited, because this is an easy way to double the amount of your donation, and double the impact of your gift! In recognition of your support, we will even offer a special limited edition cheetah print!

Sign up on between Monday, 21 September and Friday, 25 September to qualify and get your cheetah artwork!

To set up a recurring donation, follow the links below to your favorite CCF project page!

Feed Orphan Cheetahs in Namibia!

On August the 31st 2015 the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), in association with the Large Carnivore Management Association of Namibia (LCMAN) released Carnivore Tracker, a new App. for all mobile devices. Carnivore Tracker enables members of the scientific community, farmers, tourists, and local residents to contribute to the collection of important distribution data and therefore to be directly involved in the conservation of Namibia’s carnivore species.

Carnivore Tracker allows you to become a citizen scientist and allows for greatly increased survey areas and significantly quicker data collection and analysis. Combined with other monitoring techniques and human-carnivore conflict data conservation action can be targeted to key areas in order to maximise effectiveness of resources and help secure the long-term future of all Namibian carnivores.

The information collected through Carnivore Tracker includes the species sighted, number of individuals and the GPS location, even outside of Wi-Fi and network coverage. Each carnivore species has a photographic icon for clear identification and a short description on its ecology and rarity.

Carnivore Tracker has been designed for everyone to get involved regardless of age or experience. If you are visiting Namibia on holiday you can help by reporting what you see during your travels through the country while resident Namibians can report what you see on a daily, weekly and monthly basis no matter what you are doing or where you are.

Carnivore Tracker will create a large interconnected community to ensure we have accurate and robust data on the distribution and status of the carnivore population across Namibia, as knowing where the carnivores are located is critically important in order to conserve them now and for future generations. Every three months all Carnivore Tracker users will receive an update of carnivores which have been sighted and recorded across Namibia including a map so you can see how your sighting has contributed.

Carnivore Tracker is free to download and is available for both Apple and Android.
Download Carnivore Tracker and become a member of the Cheetah Conservation Fund research team today!

Spot it, Report it
Spot it, Report it
Download the app, Become a scientist!
Download the app, Become a scientist!

Links:

Khay Jay Running
Khay Jay Running

Khayjay is a 5-year-old male living here at CCF with his three siblings Peter, Senay, and Tiger Lily. These four cheetahs arrived to CCF at 3 weeks of age and had to be bottle-fed and hand reared, and therefore were raised as our next ambassador cheetahs following in the paw prints of our previous Ambassador, Chewbaaka.

Towards the end of 2013, Khayjay developed a dermatitis lesion on one of his forelegs due to the feline herpes virus. Khayjay had to be treated 2-3 times daily for almost 1.5 years for this lesion to heal fully. Throughout this time, Khayjay remained incredibly tolerant of this treatment from his keepers and veterinarian. Also in the beginning of 2015, due to the same virus Khayjay developed an ulcer on his cornea that required a special surgery to treat. Impressively, Khayjay continued to tolerate treatment and the ulcer healed quickly.

Today, we are happy to report that Khayjay has been free of any medical issues for over 6-months! He remains affectionate towards his keepers despite all the pestering he’s received from them over the past couple of years for treatments, and despite his past of medical problems Khayjay remains one of the best runners at CCF!

It was with your support that we have been able to accomplish all that we have with our cheetahs. If you would like to continue to support our work, pleaes consider doing so on Wednesday, 16 September, as all of your donations will be matched by 30%!

Here is a look at Khayjay over the past few years, we hope you enjoy them and that they sound familiar, as we have previous shared updates that include Khayjay, like B2 and Eye check-ups:

June 2014:

Unfortunately in February, Khayjay sustained a small wound on his back left ankle that was situated on the joint. To treat this wound initially, Khayjay was sedated by CCF’s veterinary team and received stitches. Once he began his recovery his leg proved quite difficult to bandage, as the bandage would bunch up every time he sat or lay down. This slowed the healing process quite a bit and Khayjay became very used to the treatment protocol, which involved meat treat rewards for holding still. He knew the routine and would meet his handlers at the gate every morning, stroll right in, and sit down ready for his treats. As this was a once, sometimes twice daily routine, Khayjay gained some weight due to the extra meat treats he was receiving for the treatments and is now currently on a diet to get back down to the ‘cheetah thin’ weight that allows him to run so fast. However, this has not dampened his spirit when it comes to cheetah runs. He remains one of the most enthusiastic runners, sprinting impressively after the lure, and frequently catching it. However, once the runs are over and it’s time to go back to his enclosure, he makes it clear that he would prefer to lie in the shade wherever he chooses, usually under the first tree he comes across.

December 2014:

For the last year, Khayjay has been battling a dermal legion related to a herpes virus on his front left leg. In the last several months his improvement has been paramount, and as of now he is completely healed! He is still quite used to his routine of receiving meat treats while his handlers treat his leg and will still occasionally lift his paw up when he sits, ready for his treatment. Fortunately, his handlers are in the monitoring phase of his healing process and are keeping an eye on his leg to ensure that it stays nicely healed. Khayjay has also had a problem with his left eye for a couple months. It has been runny and his recent treatment is showing promising results. We are keeping a close eye on this with consultation of an eye specialist in Windhoek.   

Khayjay and his siblings have a new neighbour at the Centre! In August, a new cub arrived at the Centre that had been orphaned from his mother in the wild. This cub, at about five months old on arrival, was named B2 after a a neighbouring gold mine. and caused quite a stir with the other cheetahs! He was initially housed in the nursery pen, which is adjacent to the pen where Khayjay and his siblings reside. Although all four cheetahs reacted differently to B2, Khayjay was by far the most timid, and would remain safely in the back of the group watching his siblings interact with the cub. As the cub has grown, Khayjay has become more confident and will even walk along the fence line parallel to B2. A visiting working guest was kind enough to bring along extra tough soccer balls as a gift for the cheetahs. The ambassadors were the first to play with these balls, and ran after them excitedly. Khayjay in particular liked to tackle the toy and hold it with his front paws while kicking it with his back paws. This is great enrichment for the cheetahs, as well as a source of exercise! All four of the ambassador cheetahs are amazing runners during the cheetah runs and often put the other cheetahs to shame with their frequent and enthusiastic sprints. Although Khayjay is the largest of his four siblings, he remains one of the most dedicated and powerful runners in the group.

July 2015:

Khayjay’s mantle burst dark from the back of his neck, a spray of hair falling to the sides as well like that of a young lion. As a cheetah, his looks are quite boyish, face square and blocky with wide-set large umber eyes. He sleeps most of the afternoons and enjoys the morning cheetah run when it’s the Ambassador’s turn. His muscles come uncoiled as the lure goes by and his spine curls as he moves in for the “kill.” He settles on top of that rag with a youthful pride, and it seems as though he has conquered the world, from the tightness of his shoulders and the gleam in his eyes.


Khayjay has had an incredibly positive six months. The herpes that has bothered him for the last little while has finally become asymptomatic which means that Khayjay does not have to worry about his keepers having to prod him on occasion to make certain he is given the right medicine for remaining in good health. To further that, Khayjay received eyes surgery to remove several polyps from the inside of his eyelid. With them gone, he is living a much more comfortable, symptom-free life.

Khay Jay
Khay Jay
Khay Jay Finds a Shady Spot
Khay Jay Finds a Shady Spot
Khay Jay!
Khay Jay!
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

Links:

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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Organization Information

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Location: Alexandria, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.cheetah.org
Project Leader:
Beth Fellenstein
Dr.
Otjiwarongo, Namibia

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