We’re very sad to report the passing of one of our resident cheetahs, Kayla. She will be greatly missed by her keepers, CCF staff and everyone whose lives she touched in her many years at the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Kayla was an amazing cheetah to work with, and with her feisty and wild personality was a great ambassador for her species.
Kayla came to CCF Namibia with seven other cheetahs in March 2007, after being trapped as a cub for hunting blesbok and springbok. They were kept in a garage with no daylight and a poor diet for about six months, which caused calcium deficiencies that stunted their growth. Under the expert care of Dr. Laurie Marker and the CCF staff, they were given a correct diet and exercise once they arrived. Unfortunately, the damage to their joints was permanent, and they stayed small and short in stature for the rest of their lives.
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. Kayla lived with her sister Kiana, until Kiana passed away in 2019 due to kidney related health issues. Kayla then moved over to our “retirement home” at Elands Pen to live with her brother Darwin and three other females. Even though Darwin and Kayla were siblings, they each sought out their own space within the territory. Though they would occasionally lay close to each other, but the second Darwin tried to get a bit closer, Kayla would growl and smack him away.
Though small in stature, Kayla was always feisty, especially at feeding time. We exercise the cheetahs using our feeding truck, and they know that they get a reward of their meal at the end of running. Even with her shorter legs, Kayla could easily outrun most of the other females, and was usually one of the first ones to get her food. Distinctive because of her short tail, very dark coat, and big, beautiful eyes, Kayla was always a favourite with guests and visitors. They would often remark how young she must be because she was so small compared to the other cheetahs. It was always a surprise to them when we said she was one of our oldest cheetahs at CCF. The easiest way to tell her age was if she ever hissed at you, as her canines were extremely worn and barely visible above the gumline. She tried to be very tough and scary and let us know she was in charge, but the keepers could never take her seriously when she showed us her not-so-toothy smile.
Being nearly 16 years old, Kayla was one of the oldest cheetahs currently living at CCF and did have some medical issues caused by old age. Much like her brother Darwin, Kayla had started to lose her vision over the past six months. With the assistance of the veterinary team, Kayla received medical treatment including joint supplements, liver supplements, and daily subcutaneous fluids to make sure she stayed hydrated and allowed her kidneys to function properly. The cheetah team minced up meat for her twice a day so that it was nice and easy for her to eat and digest. Even with all the care and medical treatment, Kayla’s quality of life continued to decline, as she lost more and more of her vision and had a harder time finding her way around the enclosure as well as finding her food. While it was an extremely difficult decision to make for her keepers and veterinary staff, it was decided that Kayla should be euthanized in order to make sure that Kayla was not in pain and did not suffer in her last days.