NamibRand Cheetahs – May 2009

  • by CCF Staff May 31, 2009
NamibRand Cheetahs – May 2009

May 2: NamibRand Boys
The boys again ranged towards the mountains a few days ago, but fortunately the lure of the girls seems to be continuing to hold their interest and after scaring our observers for a few hours, they returned to the pens. Close to the park HQ/farmhouse they made a pretty spectacular kill, although alas it was overnight and no one witnessed it. The following morning however it rapidly became clear that they’d finally managed to bring down their long sought-after zebra! A young one, but nonetheless an impressive achievement. They were Very fat after that for several days.

As April turned into May, they made a hunting trip back out onto the pan once more. It is a good place to hunt at the moment, with very large herds of game available and it is a nice long way away from any of the park boundaries. The only catch they appeared to have made however was a springbok, but nonetheless it will keep them going.

On the female front, Tisha and Shanti are both starting to show interest in the boys. They are not yet approaching the fence-line, but they clearly are aware of the boys movements, and are often to be found watching them intently. They both seem a lot more comfortable now that they are in the big 50 ha pen.

May 18: NamibRand Boys
It’s been a very tense week for our boys… and those of us tasked to watch them. Not only did they wander over to the base of the mountains again, but they tangled with the region’s most fearsome predator; a leopard; with fairly predictable results. Before that drama however, our boys made a most remarkable kill. Here are James’ words on the subject…

We got back out and at around 9 (12th May) finally got a sighting of the boys. They all looked fine and just seemed to be wandering aimlessly. Walking up a small hill, they stopped to rest in a bush and the shade it provided. As they rested, a big, lone, bull red Hartebeest came walking over the side of the hill. He was about 200 m from the cheetahs and they paid him little attention. Luck was not with this guy today as he walked closer and closer to the boys until they couldn’t help but show a little interest. All of a sudden, they went in super-wild cheetah mode and disappeared into the grass. We could only just see them as they strafed the bushes as he walked past them and down the hill. They then skulked down the hill and broke into a run, he never knew what was happening. He must have run between 50 to 100m before Mushara and Lindt caught up to him. Mush, running along side of him, executed a perfect trip on the front legs and grabbed him by the throat at the same time. Lindt then rose up on his back legs, and grabbed the huge bull by the shoulders, pulling him to the Earth. Two of the other boys were there in a split second, helping to keep him down. One of our guys however, never ran. He just sat up on the hill and it looked as if he may be limping. It’s probably either Kia or Ra but I couldn’t see well enough as he started to move after the kill was made. He did run down there though, and was putting weight on the leg so it can’t be all that bad.

So now they’re fighting with this Hartebeest. He’s definitely not a quitter. All five have got a hold of him. Two on the legs, two on the throat and front legs and Lindt is lying between its horns, teeth sunk into the back of its neck… They fight for a good while before it finally drops and the boys relax. Obviously tired out, they all lie down, some of them even moving off a little way to some shade.

About 20 minutes later, die regte kanniedood of a Hartebeest stood up again and tried to stumble off! You can imagine the boys surprise as they all jump up and run back over to start the fight all over again. About another ten minutes or so goes by before he finally goes down and kicks his last kick. Lindt isn’t taking any chances though and actually climbs up and stands on the dead Hartebeest! He stays there for a few minutes, looking around, watching us, before he’s finally satisfied. They rest again for a while before, tucking in and when I found them again later this evening, they where still going although they’re all so full they look absolutely hilarious!

By the following morning, it was clear that Ra was not at all well. An investigation of the area they had been in revealed a lot of leopard prints, and a close look at the other four cheetahs showed extensive, although more minor wounds on all of them (except Mushara). As time progressed, Ra lost more and more ground, and it soon became clear that he could no longer keep up with the others.

A fortunate chance however, was that CCF Veterinary Technician Rachel was in the area on holiday, and she and James closely examined Ra, before consulting with us back at CCF. As a result, the next few days saw Ra being administered a course of antibiotics in small pieces of meat, and after several doses he began to show a marked improvement.

On May 18th, when we got out to Ra, I gave him his antibiotics and marvelled at how far he had travelled again, and at the almost full recovery he’s made with his leg. He’ll walk maybe ten to fifteen steps before making a “bad” one where his tail will stick upwards and he’ll miss a step. It doesn’t seem to bother him much though, and he just keeps on moving. After he got his meat and medicine, I noticed that he was following me back to the truck slowly. I decided to use this great opportunity to our advantage and using the never-failing “come, come” call, Paul and I played pied piper and slowly, very slowly, led him down the road back towards the pens. At first he was reluctant, constantly looking over his shoulder but eventually he picked up some speed and followed us for a good distance.

Soon however, the sun was up and shining and Ra grew tired of this game and decided he would rest under a bush. Knowing this could be him for the day, I got on the radio with Mike and Ann, determined to push this fast-healing cat a little harder. They brought up some meat for us and after a little coaxing Ra was following once again. Now, I’ve seen a lot in my short time on this Earth but nothing could have prepared us for what happened next. As Ra was following the dangling Springbok, a small Scrub Hare ran from the bushes at his feet. Without hesitation, or any obvious effort he took chase. The Hare, made a frantic on-the-spot turn and doubled back on itself. Unfortunately for him, our not-so-injured Cheetah can do the same and had a nice little bunny breakfast. I couldn’t believe this and after awhile, I knew he wasn’t going to be interested in a piece of defrosted Springbok so we left our Champion to eat in peace. He definitely deserved it.

That afternoon, Paul and Abraham managed to not only medicate Ra again, but “herded” him back to the girls pen, and his waiting coalition mates. After which, a very enthusiastic reunion followed. We are confident that Ra will be able to keep up with the others now, and should soon make a full recovery.

May 24 – Happy Cheetah Independence Day to Tisha and Shanti
The day has finally come. The boys moved far enough away today and not wanting to wait any longer, I let Tisha and Shanti out. Well, to be precise they let themselves out. After a morning of checking and double checking that the boys wouldn’t come back, I cut the fence at around 14:00 on 24th May.

Paul and I waited up on the hill in the pen and Abraham, Paul #2 and Willem waited by the feeding site. We all hoped to see the girls run off into the sunset. So we waited and waited. And the others went home and Paul and I waited and waited but to no avail. At one stage I finally saw Shanti but she was watching us, and we were fairly well concealed I thought. Once we moved again behind some rocks, she was still watching us. Finally, after wedging down in to a crevice and not moving for about an hour, she walked over towards the small pan there, but just sat down. Just before the light went completely she moved down to where I think Tisha was resting but they never went for the food.

So, I rushed home and got the night vision goggles and went back out to try again. The problem is, it was a New Moon and pitch black out there. You need to be within 300m to see with the goggles so there was no hope. I left them to leave on their own and came back about an hour later to check up on them.

They’re free!!!!! They’ve left, and taken the meat which I left for them which I’m very pleased with (it was an extra larger portion, probably 4-5kgs each just in case…)

Now, they’ve gone off in different directions but where still very close. They’re probably still eating so I’m not unconvinced they won’t meet up again afterwards to head further out into the wild. I left them soon after as I didn’t want to scare them off their food.

May 27: NamibRand Tisha
As many of you will be aware, we opened the fence along Tisha and Shanti’s pen on Sunday afternoon, and the two girls left that evening. They unfortunately went in separate directions, but we have managed to keep both under observation. I have attached the satellite map for Tisha (who has the satellite collar), with the region where shanti is operating (to the SE) marked by a blue spot.

As yet neither has been seen to attempt any hunting, but both were fed an extra large piece of meat prior to being released. James is standing by to feed them both as needed.

May 31: NamibRand Tisha
Tisha is exploring her new area and moving around quite a lot. No sign as yet of her hunting, but she seems to be remaining fit so she may have got some small prey.

May 31: NamibRand Boys
Well, it’s been another interesting day down here at NamibRand. Although the boys were fairly relaxed today, they’ve managed to achieve their goal of catching another young Zebra. The must have got it the other day when I saw them on the kill and judging from the crime scene, I think they surprised the group as they were resting. The flattened grass, churned up ground and masses of hoof prints lead me to this conclusion. Also, this would tie in with the near-full moon again and I think it’s fairly well proven now that whenever they get the chance, they use this to their advantage. It is clear that the boys are getting better at killing and leaving the site. They’ve had a lot more meals than that I can assure you, but finding them in the tall grass or even trying to locate the area is very tricky.

I found Shanti’s location today and I think she’s resting in another river bed. I didn’t want to go after her as I thought that approaching her in a more confined area might freak her out a little. She still seems to be doing great however, and her movements appear normal to me. I guess she likes to travel along these paths as, like the mountains, they provide her with a little more cover and leave her less exposed. Today was incredibly windy, and I was nearly blown from the roof of the Cruiser a couple of times while tracking! So, she may have been taking shelter from the elements as well (Nils, you were right about those Eastern winds!).

Other news, as I was looking for Shanti this morning, we got a call from Abraham saying that he had just seen a big Leopard drinking from the Porcupine watering hole. I wasn’t far from here, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Sure enough, we saw a massive male hanging around and stayed with him, watching from a good distance. He was very relaxed and sure of himself, marking just about every large tree he went past. I reckon this could be the guy who the boys met up with as I highly doubt there would be more than one leopard in such a small territory. A good sighting and at least we know to be careful around the area now! He must have weighed in between 60-65kgs. Very cool. I don’t think we’ll have a problem with Shanti meeting up with this brute though, as she seems to be just a little more intelligent and cautious than the males…

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