Phoenix and his siblings Soraya and Quasar were some of the youngest cheetahs to be brought into the Cheetah Conservation Fund. After a pregnant female was killed, the cubs survived a caesarean section, and were brought to CCF in August 2008 when they were only a couple of days old. Affectionately called “The Stars” after constellations, the group was hand raised by Dr. Laurie Marker, Dr. Bruce Brewer and Dr. Anne Schmidt-Kuenzel, and thrived under their attention and care. Unfortunately, after the three siblings escaped from their enclosure in 2013, Phoenix became the only star left. His brother Quasar was killed after being injured by a warthog, and Soraya was never found. Staff continued to care for Phoenix and give him around the clock attention, but he was obviously missing his siblings. Luckily, in 2014 a six-month-old orphan named B2 came into CCF’s care.
Normally, male cheetahs live in a coalition group with their brothers, and are not friendly to other males, especially a young male like B2. However, Phoenix took B2 under his wing, and the two were inseparable almost immediately. B2 was a very nervous cub, and very scared of people. But having Phoenix who was extremely calm and confident next to him allowed B2 to settle into life at CCF. Even as he got older, B2 would always look to Phoenix for support and guidance if he was ever unsure of a situation. If Phoenix could do it, B2 could too.
Being a hand-raised cat, Phoenix was always happy to receive attention from people. He lived in an enclosure close to Dr. Laurie and Dr. Bruce’s house, right next to the stables where the riding horses are kept. One of Dr. Laurie’s favourite memories of Phoenix is that he would always greet her when she went out riding in the mornings and would be at the fence chirping when she got back.
Typically, the cheetahs get very excited by the horses and attempt to chase them along the fence, as they are a potential prey animal. But Phoenix was always very calm watching them come in and out, sitting by the fence just saying hello, which the horses seemed to appreciate too. He was a very talkative cat, and always had something to say to his keepers whenever they would come to check on him and feed him and B2. He was always very patient with us, even if we took a bit of extra time to get his food ready or had to give him subcutaneous fluids as a treatment when he got older. It also made doing sponsor update videos particularly challenging, as he would be directly next to the fence purring away while we tried to take a nice video of him. We always try and get a nice head shot of the cheetah, but not with Phoenix. We would get an eye, or a nose because he would always be so close to the fence. It was always a great opportunity to showcase his amazing purr!
Phoenix was one of the cheetahs that we thought we would never have to say goodbye to – that he would live forever. Unfortunately, things do not always work out as we hope. About a year ago, Phoenix became quite ill with pancreatitis. We were able to pull him through, but his kidneys were seriously damaged by the disease. Fortunately for us, Phoenix was very cooperative with treatment, and allowed us to give him daily subcutaneous fluids while he sat patiently in the catch cage eating his food. We knew it was only a matter of time until his kidneys would no longer be functioning adequately.
In February 2021, when Phoenix stopped eating and rapidly lost weight, we knew it was time to say goodbye. The decision was made to euthanize him, so that there would be no additional pain and suffering for him. It was an extremely sad day for Dr. Laurie, Dr. Bruce and Dr. Anne who had supported and enjoyed being around him for 12 amazing years. B2 is very much missing his best friend, so we will try our best to step into the big paws that Phoenix left for us to fill and help B2 to move on from the loss. Phoenix was truly a one-of-a-kind cheetah, and he will be greatly missed by everyone here at CCF.