by Ryan Marcel Sucaet
24 October 2012 was a remarkable moment in a long history of two neighboring cheetahs who were given a second chance at becoming a bonded pair. Josie and Merlot, two resident males, arrived to CCF in August 2000 and 2001, respectively. Initially, Josie was housed with Gremlin, another male.
In 2009 Gremlin had to be euthanized due to an injury, leaving Josie alone in his pen. Next door (sharing a fence line), Merlot was originally housed with Klein. The two were extremely bonded to one another. In mid-February 2012, Klein was euthanized following a 3-year fight against Herpes Viral Dermatitis, cancer, and renal failure.
In 2009, an attempt at bonding Josie with Merlot and Klein, had resulted in failure. In October 2011, Josie was neutered and introduced to two females, Misty and Shadow (both 13 years old), but this attempt at housing Josie with other cheetahs also did not work out.
The 24th of October was the first attempt at reuniting Josie and Merlot since 2009. The Cheetah Husbandry team was prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best. It was decided to introduce Merlot to Josie, inside Josie’s small feeding pen.
I accompanied the two males for another 30 minutes by myself, to give them more privacy and to be a deterrent in case a severe fight broke out. Fortunately, there was no fighting, no growling and no need to intervene. After about 20 minutes of observations, I could hear them purring as they lay beside one another, back-side to back-side. Considering their history, I found this unfathomably miraculous to witness.
Since the introduction, the boys have fought briefly, but this behavior is typical. Josie and Merlot need to determine their hierarchy to maintain peace between them. As long as they do not fight ruthlessly they will remain together. Less than a week later, the two are still fine. It has definitely been a great start to a (hopefully) long-lasting bond between two old males and two old neighbors.