April 7: Well, the boys did almost next to nothing today. They may have eaten last night but I couldn’t see them well enough to determine for certain or not. I also gave Tisha and Shanti a day off of torment but will resume again tomorrow as I attempt to feed them again. But I have got a story for you.
A NamibRand Tuesday Morning Adventure
I awoke this morning with the sense that something different may happen today. You know you sometimes get that? Well, I wasn’t let down. Shortly after finding the boys in pretty much the same area I left them yesterday, Marcus, one of the workers from Keerweder pulled up alongside me in his Land Cruiser. In broken English and my limited Afrikaans, he told me he had been trying to reach me on the radio. I checked it and found out that someone had turned the volume all the way down. Must have been Andrea, the German student, last night. Marcus then explained he had seen two cheetahs, un-collared, running along the fences just after the cattle grate between the Wolwedans road and Toekoms. If I wanted to catch them I’d have to hurry he says.
I hit the road fast, very fast, and gunned it up the road until the two were in sight. If they carried along this fence South like this, they would keep going until they reached farmland. Farmland of the unfriendly sort. I cut in front of them and they immediately stopped. One just lay in the grass and the other bolted back North. I got out and the second one took off North. Perfect. I just had to chase the back into the reserve and all would be lekker. Easy right? Not so much.
The first one was nothing but dust in the distance, she (I’ll explain later) made it to a river bed where the fence on the Eastern side was bust and went through, only to re-emerge a few minutes later and cut across to the other side where the fence is not jackal proof, and slipped through easily. One down. The other one would run for a hundred metres and then drop into the grass and hide. I would approach, clap my hands, shout and he would run off again. This went on four or five times until I approached once and he wouldn’t get up. I could tell he was tired and male, obviously scared but too tired to be chased further. Distressed I got a little closer to coax him up again, he ignored me and just lay there, head up looking at me and panting. I then saw that he had a silver CCF ear-tag and couldn’t be much older than a year and a half. They must be “Mom’s” cubs finally out on their own. They looked good but were going the wrong way. I didn’t know what to do so I radioed the warden. Waiting for him to arrive, I was watching the Male and looking out for signs of the female that had made it across to the reserve, just in case she came back for him.
Next, the worst possible thing happened. I was passed on the road by one of these HUGE overlanding tourist trucks. He started running South again at such a speed he was out of sight before I could even get back to the truck, let alone get the thing to start and turn it around. I went after him but the roadside turns into a ditch and even with Paul on the back we couldn’t find him. Mike, the warden, then called on the radio to ask if it was ok to approach and I turned around again. As soon as I did, I saw him come out of the bushes a couple of hundred metres back and cross over to the other side of the road. I started forward again, chasing him North once more, telling Mike to hold fast in case he got a fright again. I managed to get him down to the fence where his sister had gone through. He laid down again just shy of it and getting a little vexed by now, I jumped out of the car, had a quick chat with him and through the fence he went.
I met up with Mike and the other workers and we went back up the road to make sure that wasn’t his sister that had crossed through again. I was certain this wasn’t the case as I had taken good note of his tail colour and face. We saw no sign of any other cheetahs and headed back, happy to have them back in the safety of the reserve.
Day 117 – 123: NamibRand boys
The boys seem to have completely settled into their new environment now. They are continuing to spend most of their time close to the penned females, but regularly range out to hunt and have made three oryx kills during this time. The last one was a large male some 1.64 metres in length. Ra and Misty are still the most consistent pairing, although all of the boys regularly vie for attention. As yet there has been no significant interactions with the new females; Tisha and Shanti.
April 4 – 14: NamibRand female
I’ve just received the data for the past seven days from the collared female, and have to report that she has left the reserve. As you will see from the map she walked south from the Losberg, and the latest position data we have places her 11 km outside the reserve boundary and apparently continuing to move away. James reported a few days ago that he had spotted her cubs operating independently close to the reserve border, but managed to persuade them to move back inwards.
April 22: NamibRand female
The weekly download has come in, and it makes interesting viewing. It appears that our lady went no further south than we had her last week. Instead she turned around and headed up into the Nubib mountains to the East of NRNR. She is currently on a farm called Nubib, which is home to a guest lodge specialising in low budget accommodation and hiking trails. We believe that they are probably cheetah friendly, or at least not particularly cheetah unfriendly.
April 23: NamibRand Boys (Day 136)
It’s been an interesting time for the boys, and as you can see from the map, they’ve moved around quite a bit.
Last week they gave us a bit of a scare, when they started following the trail of the collared female. Those of you who also monitor her progress will know that she decided to walk out of the reserve last week and, presumably because she was in heat at the time, our boys attempted to follow her. They got to about 2.5 km of the reserve boundary, but after a prolonged rest in the hot sun, James was able to chase them back northwards where they have remained ever since.
The following morning a couple of the boys attempt to climb a tree, with less than spectacular success, and that afternoon they appear to start exploring more of the area (Lindt in the lead), ranging close to the eastern mountains. A few days later they again return to this area, but fortunately show no inclination to try and scale them.
After spending what is for them an unprecedented amount of time away from our females, the boys finally returned to the pens and proceeded to spend several days close by. Ra still does most of the courting (with Misty), although the boys have shown some considerable interest in Tisha and Shanti, although that interest isn’t returned in the slightest and those two stay well away from the fence. Unusually however, the boys have stopped fighting amongst themselves.
It’s been sometime since we found a kill site, but the boys are remaining in good condition, so they must still be hunting as needed.
Yesterday the boys drank from the waterhole close to park HQ (and James’ residence), before heading towards the mountains for much of the day. In the evening they again returned to the females’ pen.