NamibRand Cheetahs – February 2009

  • by CCF Staff February 27, 2009
NamibRand Cheetahs – February 2009

Attention UK! Watch the NamibRand cheetahs on TV (Feb. 10 & Feb. 15)
The show will air on Five at 8 pm on 10th February and 10am on 15th February. Don’t miss it!!!

The French ‘Tarzan’ and his family of cheetahs Metro – London, UK Working with the Cheetah Conservation Fund, they have since built up a refuge and rehabilitation centre for big cats at their Amani Lodge.

February 1: After the promise of yesterday, the cheetahs slowly trundled back to the female holding pens this morning. A quick drink was had at Sandgrouse waterhole. They then did the usual, pacing, marking, fighting around the pens. They even seemed more interesting in the females than their food this evening!! Only two of them actually came to eat – a little worrying.

February 3: Here is the movement for the female in NamibRand from Tuesday. James found the female with both cubs altogether with the males this afternoon. They all seemed very relaxed round one another, so very promising indeed. I’m sure she will let them know when she is in heat!Big progress though.

What an incredible day! Firstly, James found the cheetahs on a carcass this morning. Another young oryx – probably somewhere between 6 months and 1 years old (horn length of 34cm). A great start. James leaves them feeding in the morning and heads home, at which point he finds another carcass, that was probably killed by the boys. Using satellite data and the aging of decay, I place the kill on the 19th January – I have marked the spot on the map below. The boys then move back towards the holding pens during mid-morning. James finds them in the afternoon, and soon after they move and join the wild female and cubs. James is able to observe from 40m without scaring her away. All 8 of the cheetahs are lying happily under the same tree and there seems to be no attempt by the boys to drive the cubs away. The boys stay with her for 30 mins before heading back to Sandgrouse for a drink. End the evening at the holding pen. An historic day I’m sure you’ll all agree. They moved 9km over the day – above average for these five!!!

February 4: After the amazing day yesterday with the kill and meeting the females, we will forgive the boys a lazy day hanging around with their favourite females…only the two girls didn’t show themselves all day. The boys did start moving South-west into the plains towards Wolwedans but only once darkness had fallen!

February 5: The boys did it again! A kill this morning witnessed by James – another oryx (preferred prey, no doubt) but this time a yearling so they were able to have a good feed. 53cm long horns and a body length of 1.6m, so a decent size. They had continued walking overnight to the grass plains towards Wolwedans. They have now made 3 kills in this area, so hopefully they are starting to associate this area with hunting. James found them this morning on the move already. Just before 7, they settled down under a tree to rest. A group of 3 oryx (2 adults and the juvenile/sub-adult) wandered a little too near to the cheetahs. BANG! They exploded out of the blocks like the Jamaican relay team and tripped the younger individual after almost 200m (excuse the artistic license there, James). Kia was again the hero, as he went straight for the jugular. Lots of feasting had. In the afternoon, they then slowly headed back to the pens and made it there after dark. Third kill this week, so the boys are definitely becoming more independent. We have halted food rations for now, and we shall see whether they will need them again. Hopefully not! It’s been a long process to get the cheetahs to this stage, but a lot of hard work by all. Well done! Chris

February 8: Hey great news! My suspicions seem to be correct, the boys must have hunted! We found them this morning a little after six, as usual, pacing around the front (Northern) side of the pen. When they walked past us however, we could see their bloated bellies and what was left of the blood on their faces, paws etc. The satellite hasn’t given us any info yet but as soon as I get an idea of some possible locations they may have spent time at last night I’ll check it out. I can’t believe how well they’re doing! I’m guessing they must have used last night’s very bright moon to their advantage. They may not be “traditional” but they’re sure making it work for them. I’ll be in touch with the details soon! Until then, enjoy your Sunday. – James

February 9: The boys have done us proud this time, as I can confirm their kill from the other night was an adult male blesbok. As you know, they are alien here and they culled them for the original cheetah food. However it was believed that six males escaped and avoided the death sentence. Looks like there is only five now. They must have eaten most of it as there was very little left, although the jackals and vultures had been on it already. I’ll send all the info with tonight’s report.

Mike and Anne Scott also discovered another fresh kill covered in vultures a little way up the road. They couldn’t get to it so I’ll check it out this afternoon. I don’t think it was the boys but has Mom been up that way at all? It was adjacent to the Kopje sort of North-West of Keerweder. It could have been anything, even something that drowned in the rain, but who knows. I’ll pass it on when I find out.

Day 68 (14th Feb) – was spent vying for the attention of the girls. Rosy seems to be the most attractive of the two, although Mushara was seen to chase Misty for a brief period – she however fled further into her enclosure, out of sight. In the evening the boys headed out onto the pan once more, presumably to hunt and then returned yet again to the girls. There is no evidence to suggest that they hunted successfully however. The next evening (map below) they moved off into the large pan, where they made a very half-hearted attempt at chasing a group of Oryx. They basically just ran into the middle of them and chased them in a circle before stopping to rest. Next they ran after a group of about 15 Zebra who saw them coming from a distance and easily avoided them.

Day 69 – After five days without eating, they still looked fit and healthy with no signs of slowing down. Finally, on day 70 (16th Feb.), the boys have finally managed to kill another antelope. They must have been feeling pretty hungry since they moved out into the pan in mid-morning after spending only a very few hours with the girls. In the early evening, Kia made one attempt at hunting a large bull hartebeest. He saw it running from a distance and perfectly ran from the hill he was resting on to intercept it right about where it crossed his path he then ran along side of it for a few metres before taking a great swipe to try and trip it up. It nearly worked but the bull was too big and just managed to keep its footing. Kia gave up after this and returned to where the others had just caught up to him.

Sometime later in the night they got a young Oryx, who was resting with another adult, by a surprise attack. There were no tracks indicating a run-down or much of a struggle apart from the direct kill site. There was no sat. info for them from last night but I managed to follow their tracks around the pan from where we left them to the site. The Oryx must have been surprised during the night and then the adult, probably the mother, was chased off a few metres. Whoever chased her away then returned to the kill. The mother came back a little closer and then hung around circling the area before finally leaving. It has now been nearly three weeks since we last had to supplement the boys diet.

The collared female spent some considerable time (over a day) in almost the same location. We asked James to ensure she was still healthy and he found the remains of a springbok kill at that location. She had by that time moved on, but had clearly taken her time over the meal.

She killed an adult springbok at -24.96675, 16.06229. It was of a decent size, probably a male. Horns: w 15cm l 25cm. Approx. body length: 1.28m

The kill must have been made either early in the morning or evening during or just after the rains. The tracks were fairly fresh and easy to follow. It seems she surprised the springbok in some bushes of what looks like an old river bed. She then ran it down in a NE direction over about 150m. The spot where her tracks begin to run are at -24.968052, 16.062684. The springbok crossed in front of her before breaking into a run. It looks as if it was taken down just as it tried to turn. Most of the carcass had been consumed and there had been no vulture/jackal presence in the area. She has been moving south for the last three days. See map below.

The boys spent a quiet morning with the girls. At various points they marked and/or rubbed the fence. At one point Misty decided to chase Rosy around the pen and this sent all the boys into something of a frenzy of excitement. When the chase begins again, the boys tried to follow but were frustrated by the fence. After a little while, when the girls failed to reappear, all five move off to their favourite play tree on the west side.

Around 15:30 in the afternoon, the boys head out to the pan and their favourite hunting grounds. While walking in a Southern direction they spotted a group of Oryx. Now, I initially thought they were much too far away and the boys should try and move closer be for attempting a run. This was not the case. They took off together and all of a sudden, in a burst of speed, one of them (no idea who, they were nearly 3000m away!) just easily over took the entire group of Oryx. I have no idea how fast he was going but this is by far the fastest I’ve ever seen any of the boys move (or any other animal for that matter…). He overtook the group and turned causing the Oryx to stall, the others then caught up and sort of ‘herded’ the group around in a half-circle. In the melee I couldn’t see the actual take down and it took a few minutes for us to see what was happening amongst it all. Then I saw a couple of the boys chasing the Oryx again! They stopped after a few metres and this is when I was certain they had something and were just keeping the others at bay. We quickly left and travelled around to the Wolwedans road and walked out to the site. We saw a few eager jackals before coming into a position to see them. Sure enough, they were exhausted but happily feasting away. They had already eaten some and moved around a bit so I couldn’t tell who had done the actually killing but at least they’ve fed themselves once again. This is such exciting stuff! We left them shortly afterwards so as not to disturb their dinner.

The kill was another young Oryx, Horns: w 14cm l 47cm Approx. Body length: 1.5m. Judging by the longer, wider pelvis shape I believe this was a female Oryx.

February 18: The boys have stayed close to the girls’ pen for the most part. However, they did hunt successfully on 10th February (Day 64). After this hunt, our boys did very little on the 11th. They stuck close to the girls pen, with Ra and Misty pacing along their respective sides together and Ra marking the fence during their stroll. In the early evening they moved off to their play tree and both Cadbury and Lindt marked it. The next day they did visit their regular hunting grounds on the pan in the early evening. Once there they first chased a group of zebra and then attempted to bring down an Oryx. Although we were not in a position to witness all of the action, it appears that they were unsuccessful on this occasion.

February 20: After yesterday’s successful hunt, the boys spent the entire day hanging around the girls pen. In the morning, Ra and Misty spent over half an hour pacing the fence-line together, while the other boys rest in the grass nearby. In the afternoon, Ra continue to apparently court Misty, while the other boys stick closer to Rosy. As the girls are fed, Ra and Mushara have a small fight, with Ra, for once, winning. As the girls move deeper into their pen, the boys lie down to rest nearby, with Cadbury and Mushara grooming each-other.

And the Female with Cubs? The collared female is remaining to the south of the boys and the farmhouse. We have confirmed visually that her cubs are still with her.

February 23: Namib Rand Boys – day 77
The boys are still out in the pan after their unsuccessful hunting of Hartebeest the night before. Judging by their position, they may have continued to follow the herd for some time. During the course of the morning they move slowly back towards the pen. During a short rest they completely ignore a group of springbok walking past.

When we rejoin them in the early afternoon and it appears that they have successfully hunted a young oryx ( Horns: w 11.5cm l 31cm Approx. Body length: .95m). Very little is left, and by this point the boys are grooming each-other with Mushara cleaning Kia, Cadbury and Lindt cleaning each-other and Ra still feeding. They eventually move off in early evening and return to the girls’ side at around 9pm.

James also reports that he is now encountering a number of tourists who have seen the “Cheetah Man” documentary aired on British TV a couple of weeks ago that dealt with the release of these five cheetahs.

February 24: The boys spent the night on the pan (and didn’t hunt successfully), before drifting back to the girls pen. Ra vocalises constantly while Misty is close by, but little else happens. After a quiet day, they head back to the pan soon after 5pm. Once there, Kia tried to hunt a group of Hartebeest, but they spotted him and moved off. Shortly thereafter all five cheetahs attempt the same thing with the same group, and unfortunately are equally unsuccessful.

It appears that it is typically Kia who leads the hunting activities, and Cadbury who lags the furthest behind. This is something that we will continue to monitor.

February 23 – 27th: Namibrand Mother – Feb. 23-27th
Our lady has been staying in a relatively small area the last few days. Yesterday morning however, she ventured north, directly towards the holding pen for Misty and Rosy. When she got to within 1.5 km she reversed course and returned south. Unfortunately I don’t have any satellite data for the boys at the same time, but have included the two closest data points that I do have. As you can see, they were in the area, but I can’t tell if there was any form of direct encounter. If I get any additional data from this time frame I will pass it along. – Rob

February 27 – March 1: NamibRand Boys – Days 81 – 83
Sorry for the delay in getting the latest maps out. Our Internet has been particularly slow these last few days. Partly for that reason, and partly because we are beginning to scale back our monitoring of the boys, we plan to start sending maps out only twice a week from this point onwards, and weekly for the female.

These were interesting days, with the dynamics of the group starting to change. On the 27th, the boys all went for a long trek to the south following a herd of Oryx. They didn’t make any attempts to hunt them, but showed signs of particularly enjoying a cool breeze that had sprung up, often turning their faces into it. A little after 6pm, they encountered the female and her cubs, but she wasn’t interested in them and departed the scene. The boys chased her briefly, but soon slowed back to a stroll.

In the morning of the 28th, the boys split up with Ra staying put, while the others paced around the girls pen. The girls stayed close to Ra, despite Mushara calling constantly for them. In the afternoon, Kia had joined Ra, but as the girls were fed, all five joined back up. They made no attempt to go and hunt despite not having eaten for a couple of days.

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