Hela and Her Cubs Back in Erindi
- by Dr. Laurie Marker February 2, 2023
We recently re-released Hela and her four cubs into Erindi Private Game Reserve.
In July, Hela was brought back to CCF’s Centre as a candidate for relocation to India. We discovered that she was pregnant during her pre-export health checkup, so she was left behind. She was kept at our Centre and gave birth shortly thereafter. As with all release candidates we kept them isolated from human interaction in preparation for their release back into Erindi.
You may be familiar with Hela as we’ve talked about her often in newsletters, updates and on social media. Here’s a bit more information about her history at CCF.
In August 2018, Hela came to CCF as part of a group of three orphaned cheetah cubs that included Thor and Loki/Mike who had lost their mother. They were about 4 months of age and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) brought them to CCF. At 4 months of age, they could be potential release candidates if their wild behaviours and aversion to humans could be maintained. They were put into our rehabilitation enclosures where human interactions are very minimal. They were put together with a few other cheetahs which were also orphaned, and when they were adolescents, they were separated into male and female groups. Hela was with Adina, and the males joined three others.
After two years of monitoring and assessment in our rehabilitation area, the time came to release Hela back into the wild. In July 2020, Adina and Hela were anaesthetized for a health check, which includes weighing, measuring and collecting blood and faecal samples and satellite collars. They were transferred to Erindi and put into a 200 ha pre-release boma and released a few months later. Hela did very well in her rehabilitation and became a very good hunter. She regularly took down prey and needed no post-release assistance.
This was one of the reasons she was initially selected as one of the eight cheetahs to go to India for their reintroduction program, Project Cheetah. She was actually such a good candidate that she had become pregnant in the wild. This is the ultimate measurement of success. So, after 75 years of extinction, cheetahs were brought back to India, but Hela wasn’t one of them. She stayed with us in Namibia.
Last month, we drove Hela and her four cubs back to Erindi and their release went smoothly, with each of the cubs emerging from their box and quickly finding their mother. Hela’s instincts kicked in, and she quickly called her cubs over to her. It was heartwarming to see the bond between mother and cubs, and it was clear that they were ready to start their new life in Erindi.
I am thrilled to see Hela and her cubs being given the chance to live in their natural habitat. Anything can happen to Hela and her cubs in the wild; survival is not guaranteed. But, in the first moments post-release, watching her call for her cubs, I know that all the dedication of CCF’s staff is worthwhile. With your support, we work on a daily basis to make the wild a better place for cheetahs and humans alike.
The CCF team is grateful for the partnership with Erindi Private Game Reserve in the success of our rehabilitation work. We are thankful for the support of the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry & Tourism (MEFT) in the confiscation process and their trust in the CCF team’s successful rehabilitation work.
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