Darwin came to CCF in April 2007 with five other cubs of the same age from a farm in Gobabis, close to the Botswana border. They were in a 4 x 8 meter cage, with no sun and a concrete floor. They had been separated from an adult female –the farm owner said this was their mother. All the cubs had severe calcium deficiency and several had minor rickets and minor cataracts because of malnutrition. Although the cubs were about a year old, they appeared to be only 8 months because of their poor health. All of them got a lot better with a proper diet and lots of space to run around.
Darwin along with his coalition mates – males Livingstone, Mendel and Fossey, and females Kayla and Kiana – were trapped after they had been seen hunting Blesbok and Springbok. Whether the cubs and the adult female were related is unclear but they were closely bonded to each other. Upon arriving at CCF it was decided to name the males after famous scientists and researchers and they are collectively known as the “Scientists”.
We separated the Scientists from the two females because they were old enough to breed. Darwin is very easy to identify due to the very large white tip at the end of his tail. Also his ear tag is in the wrong ear –males are usually tagged in the right ear but his is in the left.
More about Darwin:
Darwin goes to the dentist
On Monday 17 October we took Darwin, a 5-year old male cheetah at CCF, to Otjiwarongo for some medical care. First he stopped in at the Otjiwarongo Veterinary Clinic where he saw Dr. Axel Hartman for some radiographs. He has been limping on his right front leg for several weeks now, and it did not improve with administration of routine anti-inflammatory/pain medication. He was examined under anesthesia and the findings of the exam and the radiographs are concerning for a possible pinched nerve in the neck, maybe due to injury or a herniated disc. He is now on stronger anti-inflammatory medication and hopefully this will help his problem.
After his x-ray appointment, Darwin headed down the road to the see dentist, Dr. Dennis Profitt, where he had a root canal performed on his right upper canine. The tip of this tooth had previously been broken and there was an infection in the tooth root. The root canal went fine with no complications, and he is back to having a healthy smile. Now we are just patiently waiting to see if his limping will also improve.
“The Scientists” relocated
Back in September of 2014, CCFs coalition of male cheetahs nicknamed “The Scientists” made the move to a guest lodge near Windhoek, called Kiripotib. Since this group is non-releasable back to the wild, this was a good alternative where they would have plenty of natural space and receive lots of care and attention.
At the end of February 2016 CCF received a call from the lodge letting us know that Mendel, one of the males, didn’t seem himself and was refusing food. CCF sent a team down to the lodge to assess Mendel’s condition and it was decided to bring him back to CCF for further testing. CCF anesthetized Mendel upon arrival at the Centre and took blood samples, along with checking his overall condition. It was found from his blood results that he may be suffering from acute renal failure. At his age of ten years old, this is not unheard of, as many older cats suffer from renal issues. Since his renal failure was most likely not chronic, the decision was made to treat Mendel with fluid therapy and see if this improved his condition. After several days of training, Mendel became comfortable enough to eat his meals in a small cage where keepers were able to administer subcutaneous fluids while he ate several times a week. This seemed to improve his overall condition and demeanor and he has seemed healthier every day. However, there was still something missing.
Mendel, being a member of a male coalition, is very bonded to cheetahs Fossey, Livingstone and Darwin. The four had never spent any time apart up until Mendels’ treatments. The decision was made to reunite the group at CCF, since Mendel will continue to require regular medical treatments that CCF is equipped to give. Since CCF was also home to a group of four non-releasable females, Bella, Padme, Kayla and Kiana, those four females would make the move down to the lodge and the males would return to CCF, in a grand ‘cheetah swap’. The living situation at Kiripotib is ideal for the females because of their pen layout; Kayla and Kiana would be able to have their own living space separate from Bella and Padme, relieving the tension that the two groups of females traditionally expressed towards each other.
CCF keepers’ first step was to capture the four females in crates and load them into a van for the six hour drive down to the lodge. Kayla and Kiana seemed particularly suspicious, so a lot of training in the weeks prior to the move was necessary to keep things running smoothly. All were quickly captured the morning of the move and off the team went, four cheetahs in tow. By the time the vehicles arrived at the lodge, it was evening and the sun had just set. The females were taken to their new enclosure and, once the males were moved into a small separate area, let out to explore. Although slightly confused at the change of scenery, all four females showed interest in their surroundings and especially the unfamiliar males in the adjacent pen. Kayla and Kiana had originally arrived at CCF with the Scientists in 2007, and although perhaps unknowingly, the original six were briefly reunited.
The following morning as the sun came up, the CCF team arrived at the cheetah pens to see how the females were adjusting to their new surroundings and to the capture the three remaining Scientists, Fossey, Livingston and Darwin for the second half of the move. The females, although cautious, approached their keepers for food. Kayla and Kiana didn’t leave each others’ sides, taking turns keeping watch diligently. When it came to the capture of the three males, they proved to be extremely food motivated and were quite cooperative.
Once all three males were captured without incidence, the van was loaded up, and the females checked on last time, the CCF staff headed back to CCF to reintroduce all four coalition-mates. After the journey, Fossey Livingstone and Darwin were released into a large pen adjacent to Mendel’s pen, so they could have a chance to adjust and familiarize themselves with Mendel again before the reunion. They adjusted to their new pen almost immediately, the made it theirs by scent marking every tree.
Reports from Kiripotib tell CCF that the females are adjusting well and seem to be enjoying their larger space, although they possess a stubborn streak that the males seem to lack. Although CCF misses the females, stubborn streak and all, it is nice to know that they are enjoying their new space.
Although the group dynamic has changed since Mendels separation, with Fossey and Livingstone claiming dominance of the group in Mendels absence, the four reunited without major incident and Mendels’ frequent purrs of contentment demonstrate that the reunion was a success. Mendel can now continue his treatments alongside the cheetahs that have been his lifelong companions.