Eulogy for Resident Cheetah Phil
- by Becky Johnston May 3, 2021
Phil, along with his siblings Polly, Mischief and Tony were brought to the Cheetah Conservation Fund in 2009 when their mother died after getting caught in a fence on a farm. The three brothers were transferred to a lodge in Namibia in 2011 but were returned to CCF in 2014 after Tony was killed by a leopard, and Phil was attacked by baboons. Since being brought back, Phil has lived together with Mischief, and they have moved together between multiple enclosures at CCF. They were always cooperative when it was time to move and adapted easily to any new enclosure, even if they did not necessarily love their new neighbour cheetahs sometimes.
Although it was his brother that was named Mischief, Phil was always the one that seemed to get himself into trouble. When a warthog broke through the fence into their enclosure, the two brothers went after it, even though warthogs can be extremely dangerous even to experienced cheetahs because of their large tusks. We try to teach the cheetahs to avoid the venomous snakes that live in Namibia, but we suspect that Phil may have laid directly on top of a puff adder and gotten bitten a few years ago. When we did our daily checks and feeding, Phil didn’t even look like Phil, as his faced had swollen to nearly twice it’s normal size. Luckily with the right antibiotics and lots of subcutaneous fluids, we were able to flush most of the venom out of his system right away and he recovered. He learned his lesson, and we never had a problem with snakes again.
Phil was one of the most talkative cats that we had at CCF. Whenever we pulled up to feed them, he was right at the fence saying good morning to us. Or maybe it meant “Feed me faster!”, we were not quite sure. It always amazed the guests to hear such a small meow come out of such a big cat, and Phil was always happy to show off in front of them. He was an amazing runner, always keeping pace with our vehicle that we drove along the outside of the fence. He would lope along making it look like an easy jog, even though we were driving almost 60km an hour. The guests loved watching him run, and he was always happy to oblige, as long as it meant he got his food at the end of the run.
On average, cheetahs in captivity can live anywhere between 13-16 years. Phil turned 12 at the beginning of this year, so we had already started monitoring for signs of old age such as worn teeth, and signs of kidney failure. After the snake bite in 2018, we had been closely monitoring the wound under his chin. Puff adder venom is cytotoxic, and the effects can last your entire life once you are bitten, but the symptoms might not always be present.
In early April, Phil suddenly lost his appetite and his interest in running or interacting with his keepers. Upon closer inspection, we noticed the wound under his chin had opened up again, and he had signs of infection in his bloodwork. He was treated right away and showed improvement after spending a few days under close observation. The cheetah team continued to administer daily subcutaneous fluids and antibiotics, and his appetite returned. However, he was still not gaining weight even though he was eating two meals a day, which can be a sign of severe kidney failure.
Despite the best efforts of the cheetah and veterinary teams, Phil passed away on April 29th, 2021. He will be greatly missed by his brother Mischief, as well as his keepers, and all the people whose lives he touched during his time at the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
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