Bella came to the Cheetah Conservation Fund as an only cub in January of 2009 after losing her mother. She was approximately six months old when she arrived, so was very wild and very wary of people. Even with her wild attitude, she quickly bonded with another female cheetah named Padme. The two females were moved to a soft-release training camp on CCF’s property in 2012, where they could practice hunting while still being in a fenced in area so that CCF staff could closely monitor them. Unfortunately, the release was not successful, and they were brought back to join CCF’s permanent resident cheetahs a few months later.
Throughout her life, Bella maintained her feisty and independent attitude. She and Padme joined two other females, Kayla and Kiana, but Bella established her role as the boss. She always needed to be the first one to get food and would let everyone around her know she was in charge. Typically, female cheetahs live a solitary life, but sometimes when they come in as young orphans they will bond with one or two other cheetahs. While she would normally be close to Padme, it was not unusual to find Bella enjoying her space away from the other females in the large enclosure. After losing her friend Padme, and enclosure mate Kiana, due to old age, the decision was made to move Bella and Kayla to our “retirement home” called Elands Pen to live with two other females, Polly and Rohini Tallala, and a male named Darwin.
The introductions went smoothly, with the most interaction and “drama” happening between Bella and Kayla, even though they had lived together almost their entire lives. Bella continued to ignore everyone, and be an independent cheetah, unless she had to come up for food and interact with her keepers. It was part of Bella’s charm to stir up trouble around feeding time, making her keepers think of innovative ways to separate her from everyone else so that there were no fights or injuries. If she was the one cheetah that we needed to come into the feeding camps, it was the day she would refuse to go through the door, even though she would do it every single other day without a problem. And she always seemed to be the most challenging when we had guests or people watching us. You would swear that she knew exactly what she was doing. There is another cheetah also named Bella who currently lives at CCF, so we always use to joke that we had “nice, sweet young Bella” and “grumpy, old Bella”. But we wouldn’t change her personality for the world!
When the cheetah keepers go out on a daily basis to feed the cheetahs, one of the health checks we do is to monitor their behaviour. When you spend enough time with them, you get to know their individual personalities and specific habits. When Bella became very quiet, and uninterested in food, the cheetah team knew something serious was going on. While we noticed the behaviour change very quickly, she had been hiding her illness for quite a while. The veterinary team along with the cheetah team tried as many treatments as we could, but unfortunately her kidneys and liver had shut down. The decision was made to euthanize Bella so that her pain and suffering was not prolonged any further. Her fierce, feisty attitude will be greatly missed by the cheetah team, and all the people whose lives she touched in her time at CCF.