Last Thursday, we loaded Omdillo, Anakin, Chester, and Obi Wan (aka the “Leopard pen boys”) onto a truck at CCF and headed south to Erindi Private Game Reserve. After a long drive on a dusty dirt road, we arrived at our release site; an open area with large trees, a giant termite mound and a watering hole nearby. This site was chosen for its convenient access to multiple watering holes, important for the four cheetahs of whom were used to being provided with water back at CCF.
At around 4 pm, we offloaded the crates and Ryan, the Head of Cheetah Reintroductions from CCF, did a quick scan of the radio frequencies to make sure there were no lions in the vicinity. After the “all clear,” Ryan and Juliette (Cheetah Curator at CCF) walked about 100 meters from the crates over to a large tree with an oryx carcass beside it. The two began calling for the cheetahs and the crates were opened; out ran the four brother cheetahs. After the initial sprint, they began to walk around slowly, taking in their new surroundings.
Three of the four cheetahs soon made their way to the carcass and began their feast. However, Omdillo, of whom Ryan has observed to be the leader of the coalition, took off into the bush, perhaps a bit dazed and confused from the long journey. Little did he know that this 172,000-acre protected reserve would be his permanent new home. Juliette, Ryan and some of the Erindi crew drove off to check on Omdillo, who was found calling for his brothers. With some concern for Omdillo, we left the release site just after sunset as the other cheetahs continued to eat their meal.
The next morning, Ryan and Juliette went back out to see how the cheetahs were adjusting to their new home. Fortunately, we received the good news that Omdillo had reunited with his brothers and all were at peace near the carcass with fat bellies!
Photographed and written by Jed Winer, CCF intern
Photo 1: Release!
Photo 2: Anakin, Obi Wan, and Chester feast on an oryx as birds drink at a nearby watering hole in Erindi Private Game Reserve. The fourth cheetah to be released, Omdillo, took off, but was found to be reunited with his three brothers the next morning.
Photo 3: Two of the males pause briefly while feasting on an oryx carcass at sunset after their release into Erindi Private Game Reserve.
All photos copyright © Jed Winer 2012