NamibRand Cheetah Release – January 2009

  • by CCF Staff January 31, 2009
NamibRand Cheetah Release – January 2009

The release of the cheetahs at the NamibRand went well – they are in a 2 ha holding pen to get an idea of their surroundings. The mother was fitted with a satellite collar, so we will be able to track her whereabouts via computer, as she is wild and we will never see her again after her release! The other five males are doing well and they have been hunting some on their own – however, we are supplementary feeding them regularly to keep them in good health so they can learn to hunt in a strong condition.

18th January – Morning: Hi guys, just a quick update. It took us awhile to find the boys this morning. We were getting signals from all over the place and as it turns out they were around the base of the mountains at Wolwedans. As we just picked up their tracks, one of them (90% sure it was Kia) exploded from behind a bush and at about two hundred meters took down a large-looking Oryx. The Oryx had tried to turn sharply to the left but Kia was too quick and turned fast enough to trip up the Oryx’s hind legs. Within seconds he had it and the others were there to help. They managed to keep off around 70 other Oryx that came to the calls of the dying. The Oryx stood by helplessly as the boys enjoyed the second kill of the week. We managed to see it all..

January 18 – Evening: The boys spent the entire day by the kill. I tried to get close once as they were resting by a tree but as the saw me approach, they quickly returned to the site and started feeding again. I will get more information and hopefully some sample as soon as possible. I have been taking photos as well but my camera isn’t very good. I’ll see what I can do on that front however. Very excited to witness another great tackle by them let’s hope they keep it up!

P.S. We had some guests from Wolwedans lodge today, they thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were keen on learning about the tracking process. The Wolwedans lodge guides were having a great time too. Great day altogether though!

January 26: Lots of aggression between the boys today. Always involving the girls. Ra and Misty seem to have a thing. She will often walk over to him when he’s alone and they even had a brief nuzzle through the fence today. This is the only time I’ve actually seen contact between one of the females and a male.

January 27: A very interesting afternoon! The boys have moved off in the direction of where the last kill was made. They stayed almost dead centre of the large field making sighting very difficult. Just before we lost sight of them, one of them decided to chase a large group of maybe +/- 50 Burchell’s Zebra. After giving them a good run, he gave up.

Soon after we did lose sight and although we raced around to the road on the other side (the Wolwedans road) it was getting too dark to spot them. I tried tracking them but the signal was weak so I believe they are still right in the middle somewhere. We are going to leave earlier tomorrow to try and catch up with them.

As for the wild female, she seems to be settling into the area around Keerwedeer. James actually saw her yesterday with her two cubs. Apparently, all looking healthy. She spent quite some time (almost 20 hours) at one spot so it might be interesting to see if she killed anything there.

January 29: The yellow dots in the banner image at the top of this post, represent the first release of the five boys – note how much time they spend hugging the mountains, having come from Amani Lodge (where they were in a mountainous area). The light blue dots represent the second release of the five boys after they had been in the holding pen for two months – note how much time they are spending in the plains, almost exactly opposite to the first release. Rosie and Misty have obviously played a huge role in this, but I believe it also accounts for the improved success rate of hunting on this second attempt. The rad dots represent the movements of the female and cubs that were released on the reserve last month.

The wild female cheetah resting under a shepherd's tree. Her two cubs were with her, but were hiding behind the tree when the picture was taken.

January 27: The boys have now been 50 days on their own (well, not quite on their own) for this second release attempt. Again, found this morning hanging around the female pen this morning before moving up onto Dino Hill. In the afternoon, they started walking towards Losberg. They even celebrated their 50th day of freedom with an attempt at hunting. A pretty foolish attempt I might add. One of the boys decided, let’s try and hunt a herd of 50 Zebra. There was always going to be one loser in that contest, and they ended up giving up the chase after 200m. They slowly moved back towards the females. A grand total of 6.8 km walked today – they must be exhausted!!!

She seems to be settling into the area around Keerwedeer. James actually saw her yesterday with her two cubs. Apparently, all looking healthy. She spent quite some time (almost 20 hours) at one spot so it might be interesting to see if she killed anything there.

January 30: Lots of fighting over the two females today. They drank at the farmhouse and also got fed some oryx. Some of them don’t seem to be particularly hungry.

January 31: Hurrah! Activity at least. The boys ended up walking 9 whole km today! They started off at the female pens in the morning, then moved east towards the riverbed and from here had an attempt at hunting Oryx. Alas, they broke their cover too early and gave the herd (60 animals) too much of a head-start. They then proceeded to head south and eventually south-east. We shall see where tomorrow takes us…

Just to sum things up: 50 days, 19 witnessed hunting attempts, 6 successful hunts, and probably a few more that have been missed by our fantastic observers. Also, a lot of time spent flirting with the girls.

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