CCF’s resident cheetahs, Rosie and Misty, have joined the five boys at NamibRand as an attempt to keep them in the area. Here are news from CCF’s staff Chris Gordon just back from the release at CCF camp.
Day one: Just a quick note to say that the females (Rosie and Misty) are both collared and have been released into the 2 Ha pen. The 5 boys (in the adjacent 50ha enclosure) have all seen both of them. We darted 4 out of 5 males this morning. We didn’t bother with the guy who had the radio-collar on already. All went well and they have recovered already. We will go and see what’s happening once it is a little cooler here (VERY VERY HOT).
Day Two: Just a quick update on how things are going here. We are having some problems with the satellite collars at the moment. Basically, Sirtrack and I are certain that the collars are set up correctly and were turned on at the right time. The problem, I think, comes from having driven 800km with the collars on. The collars now say that they are on NamibRand but they still need to catch up on past data. We shall wait and see.
We have decided to wait a little longer until the collars are working perfectly before we release. This is a little frustrating but I can get on and train Eben and Jeremiah (the Polytech Student from NamibRand) on data processing etc.
We went and fed the males this morning and we hope we might be able to release them this afternoon or tomorrow morning. It was very interesting as they had a half oryx, ate till they were full and then Lindt wandered over to the female pen, and there was lots of interactions between him and Rosie, particularly vocalisations. The other guys have definitely shown an interest too but this was the first real close-up interactions we have seen. So, that’s very positive at least.
Rosie and Misty seem to be good. They had a whole Springbok carcass on Saturday morning, and they have both found the water trough. We shall feed them half a springbok carcass every other day from now on.
Day Three – Morning: Very interesting release here this morning. We went to release at about 6.30 in the beige hilux (the normal feeding bakkie that the cheetahs run towards). Cheetahs were nowhere to be seen. We then found them all hanging around by Rosie, who was chirping and flirting with the boys. They spent about 10 minutes by her, and then moved onto Misty. During this time, there was a slight altercation between Lindt and Kia, but nothing serious. Friends for six years and it all goes out the window when a woman comes on the scene! Eventually they moved round and we opened the gate for them to come out at 7:20. We closed the gate and then disappeared off up the koppie to watch from there. They proceeded to spent an hour and fifteen minutes walking the fence line with the girls pen, briefly saw some springbok, who also saw them. They watched each other from a respectful distance. At about 8:30, they all decided it was a little too hot and so have already crashed under the tree by the gates to the pens. I’m pretty sure that they will still be here when we head out this afternoon.
So, I guess the females are doing their job at the moment. We will let them out into the 50-Ha pen this afternoon, and hopefully that will encourage the males to move a little bit.
Day Three – Afternoon: Well, an interesting afternoon here. There is lots of rain, especially all around the mountains and at the Keerwedeer camp where we are. We set out at about 4:00pm to find the males still under the same tree. We moved back up onto the koppie to watch. They soon got up and started moving around the 50-Ha pen to the waterhole on the other side. They drank and then decided that was enough exercise for now and so slept for another 20 minutes.
The rain started coming, which prompted them to rise and head east. After about 1 km, they startled a large male oryx (probably not the wisest first target) who started running. One of the cheetahs took after him and caught up with him very rapidly. The other four were in hot pursuit. The Oryx then decided to turn and face them. They pulled up about 20m from him and stalked their victim. Eventually, Kia (we think) was about 3m from the oryx who charged at the cheetahs. Cat and Mouse continued for 10/15 minutes before the cheetahs decided this was going to be a little more difficult and energetic than they first thought. Sleep was therefore on the cards.
Very exciting news indeed and all five of the cheetahs seemed really up for it. We hope that this mindset will continue tomorrow morning and who knows, they might actually choose a target that is a little easier i.e. one of the many springbok calves that are hanging around.
All in all, an excellent first day. We left them by the 50-Ha pen sleeping. Right where we want them!
Day 4 – morning: We found the cheetahs this morning still resting at the same spot as last night. After about 20 minutes, they started heading off east towards Boskia (where they went last release on the first morning). We followed at a distance and managed to see another attempted hunt. Promising indeed as they seem to be keen to try. Technique was definitely lacking however as the stalk was minimal before they decided to break cover and sprint when they were still about 100m from the springbok. Too much of a headstart given and they soon realised there was no chance. They then approached an oryx, and here we witnessed something quite bizarre. The oryx proceeded to follow the cheetahs, about 30m behind them for almost a kilometre.
The cheetahs crashed about 2 km from the mountain and I’m sure we’ll find them here this afternoon. They are due to get fed if they don’t hunt this afternoon, so we shall try to bring them back towards the pen area. Promising but also a little frustrating.
As for the females, they are now in the 50-Ha pen.
Day 4 – Afternoon: We headed out this afternoon and struggled to find them as they were in an area with very few roads, halfway between Keerwedeer and Boskia. Eventually, we got a visual on the cheetahs and decided to approach on foot. From a far, it looked like they were playing with something. Cue Trumpet fanfare…
They did it. Two days in to release number two and they caught and killed something! We got there to find some skin from a young oryx. There were a couple of slightly distended bellies and Kia was limping slightly. We investigated the scene and then found a leg or two dotted around and the tail before finding the blood patch where they had killed it. We then followed the tracks to get a clear idea of what had happened. I feel like a CSI! This is what we think happened…
The cheetahs were lying under a tree in the middle of the day. They had urinated on the tree a few times. At approximately 4pm, a herd of Oryx including a few young must have passed close by and the cheetahs went straight for the hunt. The cheetahs sprinted on the right hand side of the group and caught up with one young oryx after 130m. We think Kia killed as a) Kia was the one who was attempting to hunt yesterday and this morning and b) Kia was limping. They obviously managed to suffocate the oryx, who was probably only two weeks old. We could see from the soft underside of the hooves (although the front had hardened) that the individual was not very old.
The cheetahs then started moving towards Boskia, probably for a drink. When we left them at the end of the day, Kia’s limp was looking better.
We also fed Rosie and Misty today. A very very good and exciting day this end. A major step in the right direction…