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When the heat is on, the cheetah is cool.

running-cheetahrunning-cheetah

A COLLABORATIVE STUDY BY THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND, SOUTH AFRICA, THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA AND THE AFRICAT FOUNDATION, NAMIBIA:

Why Do Cheetahs Give Up the Hunt? It’s a Myth That Cheetahs Overheat While Hunting -

ONE of the most prevalent myths in animal biology has been debunked, with scientists proving cheetahs don't abandon hunts because they overheat.

- Cheetah hunt theory disproved - Cheetah Agility More Important Than Speed - When the heat is on, the cheetah is cool - Long-Held Myth About Cheetahs Busted:

HEADLINES ACROSS THE GLOBE ABOUT RESEARCH DONE AT THE AFRICAT FOUNDATION:

According to new research, the fastest land animal on Earth depends on more than speed to catch its prey. In order to successfully hunt, cheetahs need to be genetically strong, able to slam on the brakes, turn quickly and stay fit. For superb athletes, cheetahs are surprisingly poor hunters with up to 60% of hunts ending in failure. In a race over 100m, a cheetah would beat Usain Bolt by 60 meters and easily could outsprint any anthelope. But they often give up the sprint when within easy reach of their prey?

So what happens in a real hunt? Answering that question had to wait until research could measure body temperature of hunting cheetahs. Researchers from the Brain Function Research Group at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, SA - working with Professor Shane Maloney of the University of Western Australia, develop the technology needed.
"But that wasn’t enough." said Professor Andrea Fuller, the group Director. "We needed conservators who were committed to advancing cheetah research." The Group found those conservators at The AfriCat Foundation, based in the private, Okonjima Nature Reserve in central Namibia.

running-cheetahrunning-cheetah4

AfriCat became part of a Thermoregulation study of free-living cheetah during 2005/2006 - the results are finally out and being spoken about around the globe!

To date, no one had investigated how wild cheetahs regulate their body temperature or how they deal with the extreme heat loads to which they are exposed. Hence the purpose of this study was to establish:

  • How cheetahs deal with environmental thermal stress
  • Whether the duration of a cheetah’s sprint is thermally limited.

As journalist 'Ed Yong' put it; "Data showed that their body temperature naturally fluctuates between 37.3 and 39.5 º C over the course of the day, and hunting doesn’t change that. Despite their enormous speed and acceleration, they barely get any hotter while sprinting. And while they finished successful hunts with an average body temperature of 38.4 ºC, they finish unsuccessful ones at 38.3 ºC. That’s a definition of 'over-heating' that I’m unfamiliar with.

Clearly, cheetahs don’t give up because of heat. They do, however, heat up more if they actually catch something. In the 40 minutes after they stopped, their temperature rose by 0.5 ºC if they had flubbed their chases, but by 1.3 ºC if they made a kill.
This wasn’t due to ambient temperature, the length of the chase, or how fast the cheetahs ran. It wasn’t due to the act of killing, since that only takes 10 minutes. It wasn’t due to energetic eating either, since cheetahs take a long rest before tucking into their prey."

 

Six cheetahs (Mo, Dewey and a group of four siblings - Artemis, Athena, Apollo and Zeus) underwent surgery in September 2005. A temperature-sensitive data logger (measures and records body temperature) was placed in their abdominal cavity, whilst a movement-sensitive data logger (records activity) was placed on their outer thigh, just beneath the skin. Each cheetah was also radio-collared, to allow for behavioural observations and to monitor their movements and health.
The cheetahs were then released into the then 11 300 acre, AfriCat|Okonjima, Tusk Trust Rehabilitation Park, where they remained for 6 months.
In May 2006 the data loggers were removed and their data retrieved.
A weather-station measured the environmental conditions that the cheetahs were exposed to. Variables such as air temperature radiation, wind direction and velocity, and rainfall were also taken into account.

running-cheetahcheetah collar 

In 1973, researchers thought they had figured out why cheetahs give up the hunt. The idea came about from a single historic study of two tame cheetahs on a treadmill. It has been perpetuated by safari guides, natural history media and even student textbooks. When they put the big cats on a treadmill, the animals stopped running after their body overheated, reaching temperatures of 40.5°C.

The problem was that the speed that the treadmill could reach was nowhere near that of a real hunt. The cheetahs ran at a maximum speed of 30km/h and stopping within about 2km. The study concluded running cheetah stored metabolic heat so that further exercise soon became impossible at a maximum temperature of 40.58 ºC.

But scientists at University of Western Australia and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa wanted to know what happened in a real hunt? In actual hunts, cheetahs can sprint at more than 100km/h and typically traverse less than 300 metres.
They found body temperature did not rise significantly during the chase. Although cheetahs can sprint faster than any of their potential prey, they abandon most of their hunts, with less than 40 per cent ending in kills.

This new research has now proven that a cheetah's body temperature does not significantly rise during the chase, but increases on average 1.3°C after a successful hunt and 0.5°C after an unsuccessful one. The team speculates that this temperature spike could be stress-related as the cheetahs keep on the lookout for more dominant predators such as lions and leopards looking to snatch their dinner. . (Two cheetahs were killed by leopards during the study.) "Body temperature exceeded the 40.58C ceiling seldom and far less often when the cheetah abandoned hunts,"
Research veterinarian, Dr Leith Meyer, confirms that he has seen similar increases in the antelope body temperature when they are stressed.
Still, no one knows why the quick cats throw in the towel on most of their chases?! "Whether hunts induce a higher core temperature in cheetah using open-pursuit hunting patterns in grasslands or in cheetah exposed to hotter environments, remains to be investigated."

thermoregulation study
(download PDF here)

 

SO, CHEETAHS DO ABANDON HUNTS BUT NOT BECASUE THEY OVERHEAT, AND A THEORY THAT HAS BEEN IN NATURAL-HISTORY BOOKS FOR 40 YEARS - IS A MYTH.

It's going to allow us for the first time to understand what any species is doing in its stride-by-stride activity," says David Carrier, a comparative biomechanist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City who was not involved in the work. "This is a big step forward in terms of understanding what animals do in the real world."

running-cheetah dewy on a kill

Of course, none of this explains why cheetahs abandon chases early.
Perhaps Alan Wilson’s work  (Alan Wilson biography) might eventually provide an answer, using the astonishing collars (Collars reveal just how extreme cheetahs can be.) - he developed to track the movements of wild cheetahs. These same collars helped to check another cheetah factoid—the idea that they can actually hit top speeds of 100 km per hour. That was also based on a single artificial study, but to the relief of cheetah fans everywhere, it turned out to be right. Wild cheetahs do actually get very close to that speed when they hunt.

 

We’ve been fascinated recently by how much of our natural history consists of similar barely-substantiated claims that have only been recently tested. Some turn out to be true, like the cheetah’s speed or the function of the thresher shark’s tail (Thresher sharks hunt with huge weaponised tails). Others are myths, like the cheetah’s heat problems, or the komodo dragon’s bacterial bite (they use venom) (The myth of the Komodo Dragon's dirty mouth.), or the honey badger’s partnership with honey guides (Lies, damned lies, and honey badgers.) (deceitful documentary-makers), or the suicidal tendencies of lemmings (deceitful film-makers). One wonders what other myths will be busted in coming years.

cheetah kudu killrunning-cheetah

SPECIAL THANKS TO ROBYN HETEM from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa for getting this project back on track and published!
http://www.wits.ac.za/academic/health/physiology/researchunits/bfrg/staff/9065/robynhetem.html

 

Cheetahs may be the world's fastest land animal, but they give up about 60% of their chases: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/06/cheetah-agility-more-important-t.html?ref=hp

 

Collars Reveal Just How Extreme Cheetahs Can Be: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/06/12/collars-reveal-why-just-how-extreme-cheetahs-can-be/

 

Speedy cheetahs put through paces: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8137962.stm

 

When the heat is on, the cheetah is cool: http://www.wits.ac.za/newsroom/newsitems/201307/20806/news_item_20806.html and http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/9/5/20130472

 

It’s a Myth That Cheetahs Overheat While Hunting: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/07/23/its-a-myth-that-cheetahs-overheat-while-hunting/

 

Cheetahs on the Edge: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/11/cheetahs/smith-text

running-cheetah

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 15:08

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AfriCat Science and Research

science lion toothscience eyesscience cheetah

Einstein once wrote "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed", and so it was with a strong desire not to die, but to continue to attempt to unravel the mysteries of Namibia’s large carnivores, that the reconstituted AfriCat Scientific Committee met on the 30th of June 2013.

It was agreed that the role of the committee is to afford advice and assistance to the Foundation in developing research projects along the lines of its stated aims and objectives. Permanent members of the committee include Tammy Hoth, Dr. Mark Jago, Prof. Henk Bertschinger, Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp, Dr. Adrian Tordiffe, Dr. Rina Grant-Biggs, Donna Hanssen, Wayne Hanssen, Dr. Laura Brandt, Helen Newmarch and Dr. Sonja Boy.

Namibia’s Draft National Cheetah Management Plan is an evolving document which will guide present and future generations of research into all aspects of cheetah biology and conservation. It will also provide both a corner stone and a spring board for much of AfriCat’s future work, which will include:

Wild population priorities

  1. Demonstration of the hypothesis that allowing carnivores on game farms is not a threat to game populations and there may be value added
  2. Quantify and analyse human-wildlife conflict in selected study areas, implement a mitigation process and test whether or not the mitigation process is working. (carnivores this project will be aimed at: lions, wild dogs, hyaenas, leopards and cheetahs)
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of different types of AfriCat’s education activities and develop guidelines to improve environmental education on the basis of the lessons learnt.
  4. Evaluation of benefits of AfriCat activities to all levels of rural communities adjacent to reserves.
  5. Improve our understanding of population management of free-ranging populations of large predators within fenced game reserves.
  6. Improve our understanding of nutrition and prey base choice of free-ranging carnivores in relation to long-term individual and population health.
  7. Contribute to the understanding of genetic diversity of the carnivore population in Namibia in relation to their demography.
  8. Determine large carnivore population numbers for Namibia.

Captive population priorities

  1. Evaluation of the long-term health and welfare of captive carnivores at The AfriCat Foundation.
  2. Long-term reversibility of deslorelin contraception in cheetahs.
  3. Cost-benefit analysis of keeping carnivores in captivity.

The meeting agreed to the need for researcher guidelines and agreements which will include details on funding and supervision. A system which will allow for the rating of a potential research project will be initiated to guide the committee in assessing a project’s relevance to the Foundation’s core scientific aims.

Projects already approved include the much-needed collaborative work with N/ a’ankusê and the Namibia Nature Foundation into Namibia’s wild dog population in the Mangetti area, and the vital lion research project in Hobatere in the north west of Namibia. A number of other exciting proposal’s into Namibia’s free-ranging populations of carnivores were discussed and will be reviewed by members of the committee in due course.

On the captive front Drs Tordiffe and Steenkamp will develop a program on the comprehensive long term health monitoring and immune-competence of captive cheetah and other felids at AfriCat, while Prof Bertschinger will continue his valuable work into the reversibility of the contraceptive implant Deslorelin, as well as developing a system for quantifying the benefits of dental intervention in captive carnivores.

Additionally the ongoing predator and prey population density study in the Okonjima Nature reserve will be formalised and taken to the next fascinating level with the help of the highly experienced Dr Rina Grant.

All in all the future looks very exciting and challenging. AfriCat’s Scientific Committee will have its work cut out, but the members are convinced that the Foundation will continue to be a major player in Namibia’s predator conservation community. Einstein also once wrote "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts"; and so it is AfriCat’s firm belief that the Foundation will continue to be counted through her research into that which counts.
Written by Dr Mark Jago

science blood takingscience cheetah tablescience lion fieldscience microscopescience thermo tablescience lion infield

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 07:22

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Sightings Stats for our 'Medium' Season, May - July, 2013

cheetah statisticstracking by vehicle

This report records the total number of carnivore sightings in the reserve from 1 May to 31 July 2013. A total of 276 leopard sightings was recorded, which include the majority of resident, territorial leopards present in the reserve. The remaining sightings of the carnivores that are part of the rehabilitation project totalled 213. These included the cheetah, hyaena and wild dogs.

 

Leopards

sept 2013 leopard graph

ELECTRA has become the Lady of the Okonjima Reserve and was seen a total of 87 times – the majority of leopard sightings. She used to be a very shy cat, but became more relaxed around vehicles in April when she started mating with Nkosi, who is also very relaxed when in the presence of 'human' company.

MJ comes in second with 85 sightings, of which 37 were with her cub. The cub was born at the end of March and is MJ’s sixth. She showed her cub for the first time on 30 April and then later on 23 May. She has become one of the favourite leopards to track, and lucky guests were fortunate to see the two of them regularly, hanging out at the popular viewpoint we call the 'Zen Garden'.

Next with 70 sightings, was NKOSI. Part of his territory overlaps with Electra’s around the Villa area, which is very accessible.

ISHARA, MJ’s female cub from her previous litter, was seen 25 times. Ishara moves around a lot in the mountains and in thick bush, making it difficult for the guides to track her.

MAFANA has lost his collar yet again, but every now and then the guides bump into him and he was seen four times. He will hopefully be re-collared soon, as he is still one of the most magnificent cats ever seen. He reminds us of the infamous Tyson – the first leopard we rescued.

JANGO, one of our newly collared leopards, was sighted four times. However, he was only collared on 10 June and is still unsure of our presence and the noises that are often associated with a vehicle and excited guests.

BWANA, brother of Ishara, has a faulty collar and was seen only once. He will also be re-collared when possible. This is proof of how difficult it is to find these cats when not collared if you only have between two or three hours per trail. Guests normally only spend between one or three days on Okonjima – which does not allow for many hours of tracking or 'bushtime'. This is the trend in Namibia – a country that has so much to offer, but great distances to travel. Our good roads and safe environment encourage travellers to explore the country on their own – and most travellers cover between 2 000 and 4 000km over a period of two to three weeks on their visits to Namibia. In countries such as Zambia or Tanzania, most visitors stay between four to seven days at each camp.

TJ, last year’s most popular cat because of his unique character was unfortunately killed by another leopard on 19 March. R.I.P. Big Boy. You are missed!

 

leopard isaskia

Isaskia

leopard ishara

Ishara

leopard nkosi

Nkosis

leopard mj and cub

MJ and Cub

leopard mafana

Mafana

leopard electra

Electra

 

Cheetah

sept 2013 cheetah graph

A total of 181 cheetah sightings was recorded during foot-tracking activities. The majority of these (150) were of 'The Siblings' (COCO, SPUD AND BONES). They stick to their territory in the southern part of the reserve close to the lodges, and they were also the only cheetah that could be tracked from May until mid-July. Since their last leader, Hammer, was killed in the northern section of the reserve, they have never returned to that area again.

DIZZY gave birth to three cubs on 16 April and TONGS gave birth to four cubs on 5 May. The guides were not allowed to track them during this period. TONGS was seen five times at the beginning of May before she gave birth. Unfortunately, Tongs and her cubs were killed by a leopard on 4 June. DIZZY was only tracked from mid July and was seen 20 times. She now only has one cub left. One was killed by a leopard and we suspect that the other one was killed by one of 'The Siblings'.

PENTA and her five cubs were released on 4 June, but they stayed mostly in the northern part of the reserve – out of reach and in thick vegetation – and were only seen six times. She has three cubs left. One was killed by a leopard, but we’re not sure what happened to the other one, as no tracks or evidence were found to tell the story.

 

cheetah tracking  on foot

Cheetah tracking on foot

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Cheetah Tongs

cheetah siblings

The 'Siblings' Coco Spud and Bones

cheetah siblings

The 'Siblings' Coco Spud and Bones

cheetah dizzy cubs

Dizzy and cubs

cheetah dizzy cub

Dizzy's cub

 

Hyaena and wild dogs

sept 2013 wilddog graph

The four wild dogs – RICKY, RAINE, REX and RUBY were only seen in the wild seven times, because they were in captivity for most of the period. RAINE, one of the females, broke her leg on 19 May. She was operated on and had a plate put in the broken leg. She had to be kept in a small enclosure in the reserve and was on daily antibiotics. The other three dogs wouldn’t leave her side and stayed outside the enclosure. On 18 June the plate broke, because she moved around too much and she was rushed to Windhoek for another operation. To reduce her movement, we decided to lure her siblings into the enclosure, but the second plate broke on the 30 June. We gave her a last chance seeing that the leg was already 60% healed. After another seven weeks in captivity, her leg has healed and all the dogs were released on 15 August and are doing well.

POOH, the hyaena, was seen 25 times. 0n 11 June he was re-collared, but as he continues to move long distances, it is difficult to find him in a 200 km2 reserve. The collars on our other two spotted hyaenas, Paddington and Rupert, have expired, but they refuse to walk into any box-trap or allow any vet close to dart them for a re-collaring session – we will have to try a new tactic!

GENERAL INFO ABOUT THE SPOTTED HYAENAS IN THE OKONJIMA RESERVE:
RUPERT (age 2013: 24 years) (2008: 70 kilograms) (male)
PADDINGTON (age 2013: 16 years) (2008: 84 kilograms) (male)
POOH (age 2013: 14 years) (2008: 85 kilograms) (male) (weighed in June 2013: 82 kilograms)

History: Rupert was born in Etosha. He was bought by a farmer at a game auction in 1989 as a young pup and then kept in captivity with a female and fathered Paddington and Pooh in different litters. The farmer contacted AfriCat in 2002 as he had too many spotted hyaena in the enclosure and needed to get rid of a few. AfriCat took three and two remained on the farm (the mother and one younger pup), as the farmer didn’t want to give up all of them.

They were kept at AfriCat’s Care Centre from May 2002 to July 2008, but were then released into the then 4 500 ha Nature Reserve in 2008 and have never needed any assistance. They were already hunting after the second day in the wild. The dominance of the hyaena in the 4 500 ha first rehabilitation park, combined with the fact that MJ and TJ were growing up, was the reason the Cheetah Rehabilitation programme temporarily stopped in 2008/9, as we felt that the area was too small and mountainous to house the cheetah, leopard and hyaena populations. In 2011 the 4 500 ha reserve was connected to the rest of the Okonjima land to form the present 20 000 ha conservation wilderness.

 

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Hyaena - Pooh

hyena pooh

Hyaena - Pooh

hyena pooh

Hyaena - Pooh

hyena pooh

Hyaena - Pooh

wilddog xray

Wild Dog - Raine's xray

wilddog

Wild Dog

Last Updated on Monday, 16 September 2013 00:30

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AfriCat Environmental Education Program 2013

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Half Yearly Report

INTRODUCTION
The following is a report on the progress and activities that the AfriCat Environmental Education Program has been involved in since March 2013 at AfriCat HQ. The AfriCat North Environmental Education Centre is currently on hold for 2013 due to re-location. It includes all the schools that have visited the center, as well as the groups that have been booked and confirmed up to the 15th of December 2013. These include both high school and primary schools, ranging from grade one up to grade twelve. We have also hosted a number of environmental clubs as well as a group of main stream teachers coming from the northern region of our country. It also includes the plans for the future, and on how we are hoping to grow the project to reach and involve more children in our EE program.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION PARTICIPANTS FOR 2013
The following is a table to represent the groups that have visited the center since March 2013, as well as the confirmed booking for the rest of 2013. Each group is accompanied by 2 teachers which hopefully have also been positively influenced.

 

DATE SCHOOL NAME REGION GRADE NUMBER OF STUDENTS
08-10 March 2013 Karibib Primary School Erongo Grades 6 and 7 18
15-17 March 2013 Karibib Primary School Erongo Grades 6 and 7 18
05-07 April 2013 Mondesa Youth Opportunities Erongo Grade 5 20
24-27 May 2013 Karundu Primary School Otjizonjupa Grades 5 and 6 20
31 May – 2 June 2013 Nature Haven Grades 5 to 7 20
14- 16 June 2013 Rugata Primary School Otjizonjupa 20
07-09 June 2013 Namib High school  Erongo Grades 11 and 12 16
11- 14 July 2013 Ubasen Primary school Erongo Grades 1 to 4 20
26-28 July 2013 Your Safari American Travelling School Adult 6
1-4 August 2013 Oshikoto Schools Oshikoto Teachers 20
16-18 August 2013 Swakop Primary School Erongo Grade 7 25
18-21 August 2013 Donkerbos Primary School Omaheke Grades 4 to 7 20
22-25 August 2013 Etakaya Primary School Omusati Grades 4 to 7 35
25-27 August 2013 !Nara Primary Environmental Club Erongo Grades 6 and 7 20
28-30 August 2013 Etambo Combined School Omusati Grades 8 to 10 40
5-8 September 2013 Namib High school Erongo Grades 10 to 12 20
12-15 September 2013 Namib High School (Germany) Erongo Grades 10 to 12 20
19-22 September 2013 Ubasen Primary School Erongo Grade 7 20
26-29 September 2013 Karibib Primary School Erongo Grade 6 20
1-4 October 2013 Safari Wise Erongo Grades 5 and 6 18
7-11 November 2013 Wilderness Safaris Grade 12 22
15-18 November 2013 Educate Academy Otjizonjupa Grade 7 21
21-24 November 2013 Uk Travelling School UK Grade 12 20
8-12 December 2013 Mamadu Children’s Home Erongo Grades 5 to 10 21
Return Camp Otjizonjupa Grades 5 to 7 20
TOTAL 500

The table below indicates the schools that have been contacted via 'AfriCat Outreach'. Most of the beginning of the year was used to contact schools and spread the word about AfriCat’s Environmental Education program and what it offers to schools. 

Schools Visited Grades Region Number of Students
Rugata Primary School Grades 1 to 7 Otjizonjupa 900
Spes Bona Primary School Grades 1 to 7 Otjizonjupa 1100
Karundu Primary school Grades 1 to 7 Otjizonjupa 1000
GK Wahl Primary school Grades 1 to 7 Otjizonjupa 450
Kalkfeld Primary School Grades 1 to 7 Otjizonjupa 320
Dunatus Primary school Grades 1 to 7 Otjizonjupa 580
Omaruru Primary School Pre-primary to grade 7 Erongo 250
Ubasen Primary school Grades 1 to 7 Erongo 600
Paheye Primary school Grades 1 to 7 Erongo 700
S.I Gobs Secondary school Grades 8 to 12 Erongo 550
W Borchard Primary School Grades 1 to 7 Erongo 500
Total 6950

ee 2013 learningee 2013 students admiring the view of the Okonjima Nature Reserve

It is important to note that the figures that are available from the Ministry of Education are normally not very accurate, and that the true figure of the number of children in each school is normally much higher with an average of 40 learners per class. It is also important to remember that not every student is seen and that most of the initial contact is with the individual teachers, representing the learners. The Namibian Government has recently introduced free schooling, which in turn caused schools that were originally built for 600 students, to cater for 1000. Rugata Primary School is a prime example. Although this is a good idea theoretically, in practical it is just not sustainable.

 

Up to date the majority of students that have visited our center are in the primary school level, grades 1 to 7. This gave us the opportunity to develop our program to fit the needs and ability of students ages 10 to 13, but not to say that we do not cater for high school students. Our current program is very flexible and we adapt to the ability of each individual group. For the older students we incorporate more physical activities, while still emphasizing the same core principles within environmental education. We also motivate both high school and primary school students to think outside the box and inspire them to make decisions that are beneficial both to the environment, as well as their future careers.

namibia map regions

OUTREACH
Our current outreach has been towards the two closest towns to the AfriCat HQ, one being Otjiwarongo and the other Omaruru. The reason for this was mostly transport, but also due to the fact that these two areas lie within a very strong commercial farming community, and thus have the most livestock/predator conflicts. These two areas alone represent about 5 000 students and we are hoping to contact and influence the majority of these learners.

We are also planning a major outreach in October to reach the northern and eastern part of Namibia. Due to the distance we will be doing presentations to the students.

  • To the east we are going to visit the Waterberg conservancy as well as the Omaheke region which represents the majority of the Herero population. These people are mostly subsistence livestock farmers and live in an area where more than 90% of all natural game has been destroyed. We are hoping to reach the majority of the schools in the area with an estimate of 8000 students currently attending class.
  • The Oshiwambo population (representing more than 60% of Namibia’s inhabitants) reside mainly in the central northern part of Namibia. Deforestation and the destruction of natural habitat are some of the problems within the area, therefore to promote sustainable living via the use of solar energy and the use of energy efficient stoves is of vital importance.

ee 2013 group of studentsee 2013 game drive 

PERSONAL TRAINING

Since March this year we have attended two different Environmental Education centres for training. Both these centers specialize in two different areas of Environmental Education.

  • GOBABEB REASEARCH AND TRAINING STATION - At Gobabeb, which is based in the Namib Desert, they concentrate mostly on making the students aware of the fragile desert environment and its unexpected bio-diversity and amazing adaptations to the harsh dessert environment.
  • NaDEET – The NaDEET centre specializes in sustainable living and the whole centre revolves around utilizing solar energy and the principles of the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle). All food is cooked on solar cookers and all water is heated by the sun. They teach the students on how to use these cookers and also on how to construct their own fuel efficient stoves. They also expose their students to the concept of their environmental footprint and the impact they have on their environment.

By attending these centres we were able to incorporate both these very important concepts into our own programme and thus by combining it with the human wildlife conflict in our area, AfriCat creates a unique Environmental Education experience for its participants.

ee 2013 building kraalee 2013 building kraal 

CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
The main challenge that we have is transport. Not only just in the reserve for our excursions, but also to assist students who do not have access to transport to come to our centre.

  • Okonjima has generously given us access to their 22 seater bus and I am in the process of acquiring my heavy-duty drivers licence so we will not have to rely on one of Okonjima’s drivers. AfriCat is covering the fuel costs but this is one area where we require donations.
  • We are currently approaching Namibian companies for sponsorship for a vehicle to do our outreach program in.

ee 2013 students transportee 2013 students from  etambo 

THE FUTURE
Our plans for the future are to improve, and also grow the program, with the following.

  • Firstly we are developing a longer program that will allow students to stay a whole week with us. We have found that the longer the students are exposed to the EE program, the more significant the positive impact is on them, and it creates a longer and more memorable impression.
  • We are also planning to incorporate more high profile primary and high schools which cater for students that come from families that are involved in the governing of our country. These students are likely to end up in the same professions and therefore would be in a position to make decisions that could be beneficial to the long-term conservation of Namibia’s natural resources.
  • Outreach is also high on the priority list as this will allow us to reach more students in remote areas, but also to concentrate in the northern part of Namibia where the vast majority of schools are situated. If they can’t come to AfriCat, we will go to them.

ee 2013 education centreee 2013 students pangolin 

CONCLUSION
We had a slow start to the beginning of the year due to attending other centres and moving to and adapting the PAWS centre. There has been a major influx of inquiries and bookings for 2013. This is due to the outreach we have done as well as the Namibian Environmental Education Network (NEEN) conference we attended in May this year. Here we were able to present our program to a large number of teachers as well as other organisations that work within the same field. With our growing outreach program we are positive that we will be able to double the number of visitors to our center within the next 12 months.

We offer a unique Environmental Education experience to the Namibian Education system and therefore are able to make a positive contribution towards the long-term and sustainable development of Namibia’s youth.

ee 2013 campfireee 2013 lookout

Please see appendix 1 and 2 for student comments and "Thank You" letters.

 

APPENDIX 1
STUDENT COMMENTS

These from students attending Namib High School, Swakopmund

"What was really special and fun for me, were the walks we made through nature. All the wildlife we saw was especially interesting. We learned a lot on these walks and it is good to know more about wildlife and nature."

"The game drive Sunday morning and the sunrise. The two cheetahs we walked to. To learn more about plants and animals."

"Liked the walks, and sunrise/sunsets and the slide shows and the night walk/star gazing were great."

"Seeing the cheetahs that were not in a cage was the best experience."

"The fact that solitude is respected at Okonjima, and that helped me a lot, not always to talk much but to take a moment and listen and appreciate things."

"The view of Okonjima from a high point. The sunrise was beautiful. Standing on a mountain and just looking out over the entire lodge was beautiful. Also the star gazing is a very good idea."

"Being chosen to paint our club’s adopted spot! Having to bath in an open bathroom, and using an open toilet is by far the most memorable."

 

APPENDIX 2
Thank You Letters (PDF)

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Compiled by AJ Rousseau
Contributions by: Helen Newmarch (Head of Education)

 

Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 12:28

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The AfriCat 2013 Dental & Health Checks:

Successful start to a new, long-term research and health monitoring programme.

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The 2013 annual health checks on the large cats at AfriCat kicked off on the 25th of June this year under the direction of Dr Adrian Tordiffe from the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa. With help from Namibian vet, Dr Mark Jago and veterinarians Dr Sally Hardie & Dr Lucinda from the UK, in-depth health examinations were carried out on 40 captive cheetahs & 3 rehabilitated cheetahs, 4 captive leopards & 1 wild leopard, 6 lions and 2 caracals. All the cats were darted and then taken to the well equipped, newly built AfriCat clinic for their evaluations. The new clinic was kindly sponsored by long-time supporter and cat lover, Mr Jim Maltman.

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All the cats were vaccinated and treated for both external and internal parasites. Each cat received a thorough dental examination. All the cats were also weighed & measured – an ongoing research project to be able to accurately determine the body mass index of a wild cat. A body mass index is used to calculate the body condition in terms of fat and muscle reserves more objectively. In humans it is calculated using a simple formula by squaring a person’s height and dividing the body mass by the result. A person’s BMI can be used as an indicator of whether that person is over - or underweight. Traditionally, in animals, a body condition score has been used. This is done by feeling the area around the ribs, pelvic bones, girth etc. The problem with this system is that it is very subjective – different people can come up with varying results for the same animal at the same time.

 

Blood and urine samples were collected and evaluated for indicators of ill health. Some of these samples will also be used for exciting new research projects, aimed at understanding disease in both captive and free-ranging populations. Dr Bettina Wachter from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, Germany - carried out specialised tests on the blood samples to evaluate the immune system function of the cheetahs and other felids.

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DR Wachter and the PhD students that are working with her on this project have been studying cheetah blood and genetics since 2002. The project covers research on free-ranging cheetahs in central Namibia and the genetic makeup, reproduction and health of the cheetahs, as well as their spatial movements and diet composition.

 

Cheetahs are known to have a low genetic variability and it is generally thought that this is hampering their reproductive performance, cub survival and health status, at least in captive animals in zoos. However, the IZW scientists are proving now, that free-ranging cheetahs are doing very well concerning reproduction and mounting immune responses against pathogen challenges. The latter is of great international interest, because an important part of the immune system is genetically regulated. This new information is part of the reason IZW scientists are interested in how the cheetahs are able to mount an adequate immune response despite a low genetic variability? Because of this new research, the cheetahs at AfriCat comprise a very valuable population to compare with free-ranging cheetahs. The Cheetahs at AfriCat originate from the same gene pool, but a high % are captive held while the rest are free-ranging. Contact rates between animals and pathogen exposure are different between free-ranging and captive cheetahs, which allow the detection of the mechanisms of the immune system under different situations. Dr Wachter performed a series of blood procedures to shed light in this important topic. These results will be compared to previous research results published on free-ranging cheetahs in Namibia.

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Whilst asleep the cats were also groomed and pampered by the STEPPES DISCOVERY volunteers who this year provided additional funding that helped make the 2013 health checks a great success.

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All of the male cheetahs (25) and female leopards (2) received contraceptive implants (Deslorelin 4.7mg).  See: Contraception in wildlife.

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Overall the animals were found to be in excellent health. Four cheetahs, a lion and a leopard required the services of veterinary dental specialist Dr Gerhard Steenkamp who arrived in the second week and performed several tooth extractions and root canal treatments. See: dental check process.

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Sadly a very difficult decision had to be made to euthanase the two old caracals Max and Shingy. Both had lived well passed their expected life spans, but were showing signs of advanced kidney failure and it was decided that their quality of life would only continue to deteriorate despite any efforts to treat them.

The samples and data collected from the cheetahs and other large cats will provide important baseline information for a long-term study on the health of the animals at AfriCat. The knowledge gained in this study will hopefully deepen our understanding of diseases, such as chronic kidney failure in felids, and ultimately lead to better prevention and treatment of this disease in felids around the world. See: A new approach to disease research in cheetahs at Africat.

 

Dates for next year’s health checks are already being finalised. In addition to the wealth of information collected on each cat this year, examinations planned for 2014, will also include the use of gastroscopy and abdominal ultrasound to further add to our knowledge on the state of health in our animals.

 

Management of the animals at AfriCat is of a very high standard. Suggestions that were made last year for improvement of feeding management and nutrition have been implemented successfully and there have been noticeable improvements in particularly their dental health as a result.

We have made additional management recommendations in light of the increase in cheetah flies on the animals (likely as a result of higher than usual rainfall over the past few years (see: cheetah flies and more flies) as well as the fact that these animals play an important role in current and future research projects.

1) We recommend the construction of smaller "capture crushes" so that cheetahs can be habituated to close inspection, examination and ectoparacidal treatments can be conducted and applied without the need for immobilisation. This has been shown to be highly successful in South Africa. Designs have been discussed with AfriCat. These changes will be implemented by June 2014.
2) This will also facilitate future cheetah research in which these particular animals are playing an increasingly important role. See: Research

The AfriCat team is very grateful to those who volunteered their time and helped finance this valuable project. A special thanks goes out to Sarah Cullen who kindly donated monitoring and other equipment that was used during the health checks.
Dr Adrian Tordiffe

 

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Word from Sarah Cullen: (New South Wales, Australia)

I am a vet nurse with small animals in a country town. However, I have had a break for the last year.

I have always had a passion for Africa and its animals ever since I can remember, especially the cats and, of course, the cheetah.

I first came to AfriCat on holiday in 2011. I fell in love with Namibia and then AfriCat! The conservation and educational work done here is what attracted me. I came back for the annual dental checks in 2012. I was helping the vets setting up the clinic and preparing everything for the dentals. I also kept a record of the dental procedures done by Doctor Steenkamp.

I then came back in 2013 for the annual health checks and dental checks. My job this time was to monitor the animals from darting time until they woke up. This included keeping records of vital signs, etc.

It is the most amazing place and the best experience. I will be back for 2014. I feel very privileged working with these amazing cats and the wonderful vets.

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Word from Sally Hardie: (UK Veterinarian)

"I graduated from The University of Liverpool in July 2007 with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science, and a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Conservation Medicine, which I completed in an intercalated year in 2004. I worked in a small (2.5 vet) mixed practice in Northamptonshire for a year before heading closer to home and specialising in small animals. I have worked at my current practice for four and a half years now; it is a busy five vet practice in north Hampshire. I have an interest in wildlife and exotics, and did a four week elective with an exotic vet in my final year at University. I work with domestic cats everyday and have had a fascination with large cats for as long as I can remember.

At AfriCat, we have taken body measurements, listened to their chests, palpated their abdomens and examined their limbs to check for abnormalities. We found thorns in the pads of their feet and some wounds from fighting which we cleaned and treated.

We have learnt a lot about different combinations of drugs for big cats, darting techniques and treatment for overheating, which is not so much of a problem in the UK. It has been great to be able to use our skills to help AfriCat and large cat conservation"

 

Word from Lucinda (Lu) Nash: (UK Veterinarian)

"I graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2007, studying for a BVSc in veterinary science after completing a BSc Hons in Zoology. I spent the first 6 months after graduating in mixed practice and have since been in small animal practice. I am currently working in a busy 4 vet practice in the New Forest, which is a beautiful National Park. My interests are both in small animal medicine and surgery and I am currently studying for a RCVS Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice.

My mother lived in Cape Town before meeting my dad and so I have always dreamed of visiting South Africa. I was truly very excited about exploring Namibia and particularly visiting and volunteering at AfriCat!

The AfriCat Health Check has been an amazing experience; we both work with domestic cats every day in the UK, so to be able to work with large cats has been a fantastic opportunity! We have helped to intubate cats to give them oxygen and put them on intravenous fluids. We have been taking heart rates, respiratory rates, temperatures, blood pressure and then examining the cats’ ears, eyes, teeth, skin.

We have enjoyed lectures from the main wildlife vets and so learnt more about wildlife conservation in Namibia. Everyone has been so enthusiastic and friendly – we feel so privileged to have been part of a great team!"

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Last Updated on Saturday, 14 September 2013 12:11

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