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Guide Sightings Report Peak Season June - November 2014

shanti treejango 2014

Leopards

leopard sightings peak season 2014

SHANTI was the most popular leopard among guides and guests, with 160 sightings between June and November 2014, following in the footsteps of her famous mother MJ. Shanti is MJ’s only cub from her fourth litter and was born in March 2013 in the Okonjima Nature Reserve. A year later, mother and daughter were seen apart more and more frequently. As a result, Shanti was collared in April 2014. Back then, at only 13 months old, Shanti had reached a weight of 32 kg, which equalled the weight of her 14 year old mother. Ever since then, Shanti (which means quiet, peace and tranquility in Sanskrit and is described as an 'unusual woman with a distinct personality') has roamed the ranges of the Okonjima Nature Reserve by herself and has become the favourite of the Okonjima guides. Her home range overlaps with that of her mother, as well as with Mafana’s, who is believed to be her sire. It extends over the mountain ranges in the western part of the reserve down to the southern Okonjima Dam valley.

Read more about MJ & SHANTI:
MJ legendary cat in the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
Shanti


NKOSI
retains his status as Okonjima’s most sighted male leopard. He was found mating with Isaskia as well as with Electra and has also been observed with Mafuta on a couple of occasions. Nkosi is the sire of Electra’s second litter, which sadly didn’t survive longer than three months.


ELECTRA has been causing quite a stir during these past few months of Okonjima’s peak season. After being seen mating with Nkosi in April and May and then leaving her familiar territory and disappearing into the Omboroko Mountains in mid-August, Team AfriCat assumed that she was giving birth to her second litter and seeking protection in the mountains. It was only in September when she was spotted again . . . and to our surprise, mating with our largest, male leopard, Madiba. This incident led us to exclude the idea that Electra was nursing her second litter, since there is no available data about female leopard mating activity while being accompanied by dependent cubs. Contrary to everything we have ever seen, heard or read before, Electra was found a few days later with two little cubs of approximately two months old. But again – as with her last litter – luck was not on her side. On 3 November her first cub disappeared (reminding us of last years’ disappearing cub) and her second cub was killed a few weeks later by Madiba. Between the disappearance of the first cub and the death of the second cub, Electra was observed mating with Nkosi, which made her behaviour even odder. Post-mortem analyses of the second cub revealed unusual liver lacerations suggesting starvation and malnutrition. All her cubs from the first, as well as the second litter, appeared to be underweight. This raised suspicions that Electra wasn’t able to produce enough milk to nourish her cubs sufficiently within the first few weeks of their lives, and that metabolic problems, rather than abandonment or mis-mothering, were the source of the cubs’ malnutrition.
Read more about Electra:
Electra a first time mother.
Electra


MJ the grand lady among Okonjima’s leopards, was spotted 108 times and, at 14, is one of the most popular leopards of the Okonjima Nature Reserve and has been monitored by the Hanssen family since she was about 4 weeks old. After she and her cub Shanti went their separate ways in April 2014, she was found mating with Mafana during the following months. In November, she left her familiar territory in the south-western part of the reserve and was spotted mating with Madiba in the eastern part of the reserve. Occasionally she is found reunited with Shanti when they share a meal. In the course of AfriCat’s annual health check in July, MJ’s collar was replaced and her general health condition checked. Because of her advanced age, special attention was given to the condition of her teeth. Her weight, at 32 kg, has been constant during the past two years.

Read more about MJ and SHANTI:
MJ legendary cat in the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
MJ


MAFANA was collared in 2006 for the first time. Ever since then, his collar has been regularly checked, and replaced when necessary. In 2013 his collar malfunctioned and he was seen only occasionally during that time. Because Mafana had been darted several times in the past, we had difficulties catching him in one of our box traps to re-collar him, but in July 2014 we tricked him by spraying the inside of the box with urine of a female leopard . . . and it worked – better than expected. The following night Mafana walked straight into the box and gave us the opportunity to provide him with a new collar. Since then he has been followed regularly. Mafana was darted again in August because he was seen limping severely, but no external injuries were found and his condition improved significantly within the next days.


ISASKIA is one our female leopards that is still seen rather irregularly. Her elusive nature, as well as her preference for thick bush, make it difficult to keep track of her. In August and September, Isaskia was seen regularly with Nkosi, close to the Villa area and outside her usual territory. Isaskia’s collar works on a six-hour-on – six-hour-off basis, which makes locating her rather difficult at times. We thus intend to replace her collar soon.
Isaskia


BWANA & ISHARA - the siblings of MJ’s third litter share a territory in the southern part of the reserve. Both leopards are only seen rarely by the Okonjima guides as well as Team AfriCat. Bwana, who was only seen six times within six months, is known to occasionally mock-charge the Okonjima cruisers – giving guides and guests a regular fright. However he seems to not have any bad intensions – it’s just who he is! More than ever before, we can confirm that each leopard has a different spot-pattern and a different character, unique to themselves. His sister Ishara, is more relaxed with vehicles, but her preference for dense bush often prevents a good sighting of her. She was once seen mating with Madiba in the beginning of October. If the mating was successful, Ishara might give birth to her first litter at the beginning of next year.
Bwana and Ishara 

 

THE NEWCOMERS

Team AfriCat collared and re-collared six leopards between June and November 2014. Among them were individuals that had already been collared in the past, as well as new individuals that had only been sighted occasionally on trail and live cameras.


MAFUTA, Electra’s mother, was re-collared in August this year after her previous collar stopped working over a year ago. Mafuta is relatively shy and timid around vehicles and usually withdraws immediately when approached too closely. However, she was spotted 25 times after her collaring in August, accompanied by two cubs of approximately 6–8 months. We think this is her third litter (first litter: 2008, second litter: 2011).


LILA, a young female of approximately two years of age, was collared in July for the first time. Similar to Mafuta, it is difficult to catch sight of her as she is still nervous and uncomfortable around vehicles. Home range analyses revealed that she prefers the areas around Serenjima, but regular movements towards the north and east have also been observed.


MADIBA Okonjima’s new king. Madiba, named after and in honour of the most admired African leader, Mr Nelson Mandela, was finally collared in September, after months of brief sightings and occasional appearances on trail cameras. With a weight of 76 kg and a body length of 120 cm, Madiba is officially the biggest collared cat ever recorded in the history of Okonjima, equalling a male leopard caught during the first leopard research project carried out on Okonjima between 1997 and 1999. Madiba roams the 2 000 ha lodge area as well as the 20 000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve and his collar gives us the opportunity to monitor his movements regularly.


JO JO (AKA: Jo Jo Farque- named in honour of our AfriCat UK, Chairman – David Farquharson’s wife) - first appeared in 2013 and has only been seen occasionally ever since. In July, Team AfriCat was finally able to collar her. She is the heaviest female in the Okonjima Nature Reserve at 48 kg and is easily recognizable by a deep cut in her left ear. Unfortunately, Jo Jo has only been seen a couple of times since her collaring. When found, she is generally quite relaxed around people, but her prime habitat includes dense shrub and bush, which makes it difficult to follow her. In November she was spotted by one of our Okonjima guides, with a two-month old cub. Who knows – maybe we will get to see her more regularly.

leopard home range peak season 2014

 

leopard electras first litter
Electra's first litter
leopard jango peak season 2014
Jango
leopard jango peak season 2014
Jango
leopard jojo peak season 2014
Jo Jo
leopard lila peak season 2014
Lila
shanti showing aggression towards mj
Shanti showing aggression towards MJ
shanting pouncing
Shanti pouncing.
shanti jumping
Shanti
shanti sitting
Shanti

 

Cheetahs

cheetah sightings peak season 2014The infamous siblings COCO, SPUD AND BONES were tracked by the Okonjima guides an incredible 236 times during June and November.

Coco and Spud came to AfriCat at the age of three months. The two cubs had been kept as pets and because of their inadequate diet, both suffered from severe calcium deficiency, resulting in bone fractures. After recovering they were transferred into a larger enclosure and were united with Bones who came to AfriCat as an orphaned cub after his mother had been shot. In 2010 the trio was released into the Okonjima Nature Reserve together with Frankie, Hammer and Tongs, who sadly have all been killed by leopards and spotted hyenas over the past years. Coco, Spud and Bones held their ground and became successful hunters, and our Okonjima guests are able to witness their success story up close, every day.
Read more about the infamous 'Siblings': 
The Siblings - Coco, her brother Spud and their leader Bones.
COCO  SPUD  BONES


SPIRIT, Dizzy’s last surviving cub of her first litter. Spirit was left by her mother at only 13 months and has had to hunt and survive on her own ever since. She quickly became one of the guides’ favorites and is tracked regularly. She overcame little obstacles like minor injuries and thorn wounds above her eye and grew into a beautiful, self-sustaining young cheetah. She seems to enjoy company every now and then: she met up with Dizzy for a couple of days in June and shared a meal with Needle and Pins, and was found with Penta in August and October, close to the perimeter fence on the eastern side of the reserve.
Dizzy a story about a rehabilitated cheetah mother.
SPIRIT


Even though PENTA isn’t shy or nervous around people and vehicles, she was only spotted 37 times during Okonjima’s busy peak season. Due to the fact that she is always on the move, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of her. She often moves in the remote, north-eastern part of the Park in thick, dense bush, which makes tracking difficult and time consuming for the guides. In July, Penta escaped through one of the 'river-swimmers' and roamed to about 20 km west of the Okonjima Nature Reserve. With the help of the gyrocopter we were able to locate Penta’s exact location and bring her back home after a long and exhausting trip. Because Penta’s collar was showing the first signs of technical failure, and to avoid complete malfunction, we re-collared her in September.
More about Penta:
The quandary of rescue and release.
PENTA


PINS
and her sister Needle became an inseparable duo after the loss of their three siblings and the abandonment by their mother Penta in March 2014. From the beginning they seemed to struggle to make their own kills, and from time to time we had to help them out to keep their energy levels up. For some reason they preferred staying close to the perimeter fence on the eastern boundary of the Okonjima Nature Reserve where little prey is available. After the tragic death of her sister Needle who was attacked by a leopard or hyena in August 2014, Pins was forced to lead a solitary life. Suddenly being on her own without her sister’s support, we were worried that she would not be able to hold her ground out in the wild. It was always her sister, Needle who was the confident and feisty one. Without her dominant sister, Pins was only seen 19 times by the Okonjima guides. She has always been a little nervous around humans and even in the presence of her sister, remained mainly in the background. Today she still withdraws quickly if approached too closely.
Read More Pins:
Penta, Pins and Needle.
PINS

cheetah home range peak season 2014

 

cheetah1 peak season2014
Cheetah
cheetah2 peak season2014
Cheetah
coco bones cheetah peak season 2014
Coco and Bones
coco bones cheetah peak season 2014
Coco and Bones
dizzy kudu kill okonjima dam
Dizzy on a kudu kill at Okonjima Dam
pins peak season 2014
Pins

 

Wild Dogs and Hyenas

wild dog sightings peak season 2014REX, RICKY AND RAINE, our three wild dogs, were sighted 92 times by the Okonjima guides between June 1 and November 30, 2014 in the 20 000 ha Nature Reserve. The trio is always on the move and covers wide distances every day despite Rex’s impairment (he has only three legs). Lately it seems the dogs have made a habit of chasing leopards around and have been seen forcing the leopards to seek protection in the nearest available tree. Ricky was re-collared in June and is the only one of the trio that is equipped with a collar.

The next big challenge for the dogs will be the attempt to unite them with our wild dog pups Jogi, Messi and Robin, who are currently resident at the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre. This project will be tackled sometime next year and will hopefully result in a successful integration of the pups into the existing pack.
Read More About RICKY, REX & RAINE: The Wild Dogs Part 1.
RAINE  RICKY  REX


Spotted Hyena
POOH
was sighted 52 times during the Okonjima’s peak season 2014 (the most sightings of all the spotted hyena). He was mostly found sleeping during the day, although he is a regular visitor to our baited trail cameras during the night.

In November 2014 we were able to collar two more brown hyenas – ED AND BANZAAI. This will hopefully allow us to learn more about these elusive animals (3 in total collared) and give the Okonjima guests the opportunity to be part of a unique, tracking experience.


PREY BASE June - November 2014 

preybase new oryx

 

Last Updated on Monday, 12 January 2015 07:08

Hits: 4738

Penta, Pins and Needle

PENTA’S STORY!

cheetah pentacheetah pentacheetah penta 2 cubs

Since her release into the Okonjima, 20 000 ha Nature Reserve more than a year ago on 4 June 2013, Penta has had it tough. She struggled to find water and food and to avoid predators, which were responsible for the loss of two of her five cubs in the first three weeks after their release. One was taken by a leopard and the other one unknown. This made us realize just how difficult it is for a cheetah to be relocated into a new area.

2013: Penta and Cubs - The Quandary of Rescue and Release 

penta 5 cubs 2013
Penta and 5 cubs.
penta 4 cubs 2013
Penta and 4 cubs

It took her a good six months to settle in to her new environment with her remaining three cubs, two females and one male. In December 2013 she started making regular kills to feed all four of them and became very popular with our Okonjima guests going out on cheetah tracking.

On 10 February 2014 she was seen with one of our dominant male cheetahs, Bones, and shortly after that she started leaving her cubs, then 18 months old, for a few days and then returning to them. Was she perhaps pregnant and preparing her cubs to go it alone? On 17 March she left her cubs for good and moved into the northern part of the reserve.

At the beginning of May, Penta was getting bigger and fatter and showing signs that she was indeed pregnant. On 18 May 2014 we were rewarded with four new cheetah cubs.

cheetah penta 2014 cubs borncheetah penta 2014 cubs borncheetah penta 2014 cubs born
(cubs 10 days old)

 

While Penta was doing fine by herself and nursing four new babies, her three older cubs were struggling without their mother. They made small kills and at least stuck together, but found it difficult to take a territory and make it their own, and got pushed into the furthest most southern corner of the reserve by our dominant cheetah coalition 'The Siblings' (two males and a female).

penta older cheetah cubs on their ownpenta older cheetah cubs on their own

Needle was the only cub collared and we felt the time had come to collar the other two as well, as they obviously would have to be monitored closely. On 19 May Dr Ulf Tubessing and a film crew came all the way from Windhoek to do the darting.

darting and collarsdarting and collarsdarting and collars

Sadly a freak accident happened shortly after they were collared. The collar on the male cub became wedged over his bottom two canines and he broke his neck in the struggle to get rid of the collar and died. It was a shock to all. A collar causing the death of a cat had never happened before, and is seldom reported by other researchers.

The collar was placed around his neck the same way it is done with all other cats – but the new collar designs have very 'slippery/rounded' battery packs, and a young cheetah’s jaw is shorter than an adult cheetah’s jaw, or a leopard’s jaw. We suspect that this combination, plus the fact that this cat had never been collared before, were the reasons he struggled more than others and the battery pack was forced over his two canines with his paws and then got hooked.

 

When collaring carnivores:

  • Make sure that once fastened, you judge the 'tightness' by making sure it does not go over the ears – which is obviously the issue with leopard more so than with cheetah, who have larger heads in comparison to the neck diameter, and furrier neck hairs.
  • With young cheetahs one also needs to take into consideration their short, bottom jaw – at least a cm shorter than a fully grown cheetah.
  • After tightening the strap of the collar, try your best to pull it off in all directions to make sure that it won't be displaced, yet leaving enough room for a chunk of meat to be swallowed with ease to prevent choking.
  • Unfortunately some cats just don't like the feel of the collar and they attack it with their paws more aggressively than others do. They push the collar forward with their paws until the top slips over the ears or the bottom slips over the teeth, getting stuck in the mouth. (It also depends on the angle of the lower canines when lowering the mandible against the neck) We have heard about a leopard in the western Cape that did the same thing – getting her teeth caught in the collar. She died about a week after she was released.
  • Always be more wary of a collar that is too loose than one that is too tight – but when collaring young animals make sure you regularly loosen the strap as the cats grows. This is one of the negative sides of researching young carnivores, because one has to dart them more regularly and make sure they stay within the area you are monitoring.

After this unfortunate accident, Needle and her sister Pins had to go it alone. After they were collared, we released them into a different area of the park that had more prey and they defiantly spent more time hunting and roaming the new plains, instead of staying in one area and hoping AfriCat would turn up with their next meal. They had had good training from their mother Penta, so had no reason not to make it out there. Needle and Pins were also given a long-acting, reversible contraceptive, seeing that they were not fully self-sustaining yet.

'Contraception is a reversible process– and therefore all rehabilitated cheetah females will be able to have cubs in the park in the future, but will need to be managed. An island-bound conservation environment such as this needs to be managed differently to a wilderness area. The ideal contraceptive for wildlife should have no side effects. It should also be safe in pregnant females, have minimal effects on behaviour, should not pass through the food chain, be affordable and delivery should be easy – ideally allowing remote delivery. In many cases a reversible method is preferable to permanent methods so that animals can breed again at a later stage.'Dr Henk Bertschinger

Read more about safe contraception:
Contraception in wildlife
AfriCat Research

 

On the other side of the park disaster struck. Only three weeks after Penta had given birth to four beautiful cubs, they were found bitten to death in the den, with Penta nowhere to be seen. We suspected it was the wild dogs who were in that rocky area on that particular day, and the bite marks were smaller than a leopard bite. Again it just shows how difficult it is for cheetah to survive in the wild.

cheetah cubs 2014 junecheetah cubs 2014 junecheetah cubs 2014 june

After she lost her cubs, Penta wandered through the reserve again making regular kills. She even met up with Needle and Pins for a couple of days, maybe just for some company who knows, but sadly they separated again. We were not too concerned, because she is an independent, wild cheetah and hunting well. Born in the wild she has lived most of her life on farmland.

joined with needle and pins 2014

MISSION – 'BRING PENTA HOME!'

Then on 14 July a call came through from the AfriCat Team that Penta’s signal seemed to be coming from outside the park. The signal was weak and kept disappearing. At first we thought the collar was faulty, as we’d experienced so many technical errors on the collars lately, but we decided to extend the search outside the reserve. Fortunately for AfriCat, Okonjima now owns a Gyro-copter and it was sent up to investigate. (The Gyro is used for game-counts, fence and veld-fire checks, emergency tracking and as an anti-poaching 'tool'.) Flying above the target gives you a more direct signal without the interference of hills and river-banks, warthog holes and thick bush.

The call came back from the pilot, Janek Hoth, that she was about 10 km west of the Okonjima Nature Reserve’s western boundary – on one of our neighbouring cattle farms.

It was late afternoon, so team AfriCat had to wait for the next day to go out and find her. All the neighbours were alerted and all promised not to shoot her. As the sun rose the next morning, the Gyro-copter was up in the air to locate her position and to find a road to the area she was in. She was now about 20 km west, near the Mount Etjo Hunting and Game Reserve. Again farmers were called to let them know about Penta’s location and to get permission to drive through their farms to get to her. It was wonderful how accommodating everyone was and every farmer was very helpful.

So the ground team set out to go and find her, dart her and bring her back. After more than an hour’s drive through the thick bush and bumpy roads of farms, we finally found her. Luckily close to a road. She was thin, but not in bad shape. She immediately came closer, perhaps recognizing our AfriCat field vehicle. We darted her and brought her back. She weighed only 34 kg, 8 kg less than five months previously.

rescue penta cheetah
Penta found on a neighbouring farm.
rescue penta cheetah
Penta found on a neighbouring farm.
rescue penta cheetah
Gyro at sunrise.
rescue penta cheetah
Gyro at sunrise.
rescue penta cheetah
Bringing Penta home.
rescue penta cheetah
Bringing Penta home.

 

This is the problem with habituated carnivores – they trust man and so she had to come back to the safety of the Okonjima Nature Reserve, otherwise she may just not have run from the 'wrong person/vehicle' and could have been shot. However, if a cat is collared, farmers can recognise that the cheetah either belongs to us or the CCF in this area, and always call to inform us that they have found a collared cat.

 

cheetah penta 2014She was released back into the 20 000ha reserve the next day. We scanned our perimeter fence and found she had slipped through one of our 'river-swimmers' (the section of the fence crossing the rivers) after strong winds blew it open and it got stuck. She was just in the wrong place at the right time.

Penta moved into the southern part of the park after her rescue and did not go back to the northern part where her cubs had been killed for a some time.

 

 

NEEDLE AND PINS

Some background on Needle:

Needle, our miracle cheetah was separated from her siblings and mother four days after they had been released into the 20 000ha Okonjima Nature Reserve (June 2013), and only found 14 days later. The miracle that the young cub, now named 'Needle', survived all this time on her own was a mixture of luck and the fact that felids can go for longer periods of time without food than many other species. They just utilize their own fat stores and then their muscle tissue to survive. But it was still a little miracle that this young cub was able to stay away from the larger predators and find water in such a wild area.

Needle was quickly darted and collared, to make sure we could track her if she got lost again or wasn’t accepted by her mother and siblings once reunited. Unfortunately the dart-needle seemed to have hit her shoulder blade (scapula) and broken off inside the cub. Dr. Adrian Tordiffe explained that we should not immediately try and remove it as she was underweight and stressed. He felt there was a chance that the stainless steel needle might not cause any problems and that she should be monitored for signs of lameness or an abscess developing, before surgery was considered. A month later, the needle started moving and the cub was suddenly unable to walk. We rushed her to Windhoek, where Dr. Ian Baines surgically removed the needle. She now had to stay in the enclosure for yet another two weeks to recover, before we could release her with her mother and two siblings.

needle being darted when foundneedles operationneedle xrayneedle xray

Back to Pins & Needle:
Cheetahs Needle and Pins became an inseparable duo after the loss of their three siblings and the abandonment by their mother Penta at the end of March 2014. From the beginning, the sisters seemed to struggle to make their own kills, and from time to time we had to help them out to keep their energy levels up.

In the afternoon of 15 August, Team AfriCat was informed that Needle and Pins had joined their mother Penta, who had spent the last few days close to the eastern fence-line.

When Team AfriCat arrived there, we found the reunited cheetah trio lying close together, seeming to enjoy each other’s company.

Early the next morning, Richard, one of our Okonjima guides who was taking his guests out on a cheetah drive, found Needle and Pins, still at the same place they had been found the previous day – but something was clearly wrong with Needle. She was lying on the ground not moving, only moaning. Her sister Pins was lying close to her but there was no sign of Penta.

Team AfriCat rushed out immediately. Needle was lying on her left side, not moving at all and only able to let out a soft growl when we approached her. At first glance we weren’t able to detect any exterior wounds, but found hyena tracks close to where she lay. The decision was quickly made that we needed to take her to the vet as soon as possible. Because she was lying so motionless on the ground we decided not to dart her. While carefully transferring her into the crate, we realised for the first time that she wasn’t able to move her legs. Because we couldn’t locate any bite marks or trails of blood that indicated a fight, our first thought was that Needle might have been bitten by a snake.

We rushed to Elvira Kleber’s vet practice in Otjiwarongo (74km north of Okonjima), which had helped AfriCat several times already in the past. After she was sedated and we were able to have a closer look, the real extent of her injuries became visible: Around her neck we found three deep bite marks – two smaller ones on her left side and a major one on the right. Because the injuries were so close to the neck, X-rays had to be taken to see if her spinal cord was injured. No major fracture was visible. The only incongruity visible was the gap between the 3rd and 4th cervical vertebra which appeared to be narrower than normal, possibly indicating a swelling of the vertebra which might have caused the paralysis. Elvira advised us to monitor her closely for the next three days and inject her with cortisone and Vitamin B on a daily basis in order to help reduce the swelling. So there was hope.

cheetah needle paralyzedneedles spine injury xrayneedles spine injury xray

Back at Okonjima, we brought her into a small catch camp – far away from any hustle and bustle, and we prayed her condition would improve within the next 72 hours. Not able to move any of her limbs, we had to feed and give her water by hand. At least she allowed us to! We exercised her legs regularly and changed her position in order to minimize the risk of oedemas (a build-up of excess serous fluid between tissue cells).

Unfortunately, Needle didn’t show any signs of recovery during the next two days – in fact her pain seemed to become more severe. After seeking advice from several vets, we decided Monday late afternoon to release her from her pain and to end her suffering. After three days during which we tried everything to help her, we finally decided to put her down. Her pain and suffering was too great and the likelihood of recovery too poor. It broke all our hearts to see this special cheetah in such a condition. Rest in peace, brave girl.

After the tragic death of her sister, Pins was forced to lead a solitary life after all. We were worried that she would be unable to hold her ground in the wild alone. Needle had always been the confident and feisty one, while the more nervous Pins remained in the background. To our delighted surprise, Pins is making regular kills and is roaming vast areas of the 200 km2 reserve. She still keeps her distance from humans and is not often seen by our Okonjima guides. As the only survivor of Penta’s litter of five cubs, Pins has clearly made her way, and we hope that she will bring us joy for many years.

cheetah pins  sept 2014cheetah pins sept 2014

 

PINS – Penta’s only surviving cub

GENDER: Female
AGE: (2014): 2
WEIGHT: 33kg
ORIGIN: Grootfontein
MOTHER: Penta
RESCUED: December 2012
RELEASED INTO THE OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE: 4 June 2013

Pins was caught with her mother Penta and her four siblings on a cattle farm about 25 km north-east of Grootfontein. At that time, she and her siblings were approximately three to four months of age. The farmer who caught them was impressed that Penta and her offspring had managed to stay alive in very thick bush and decided that instead of killing them, he would find them a more suitable home.

The cats arrived at AfriCat in December 2012. The initial plan to relocate them into a wilderness area in the north-west of Namibia failed, as a result of the second consecutive year of dryness and the resulting emigration of prey species. When the second option to release them into an area close to the Etosha National Park also didn’t work out and Penta and her cubs were running out of alternatives, AfriCat and Okonjima decided the best option was to release them in the Okonjima 20 000 ha Nature Reserve, because it was available without further delay. The reason this was not considered in the first place was that they would occupy the space allocated for AfriCat’s captive cheetah that were waiting to be released and rehabilitated. After spending six months in a controlled and fenced environment, the cheetah family was released in June 2013.

Today Pins is the only survivor of Penta’s litter of five cubs. She and her sister Needle became an inseparable duo after the loss of their three siblings and the abandonment of their mother at the end of March 2014. At the beginning they seemed to struggle to make their own kills, and from time to time we had to help them out to keep their energy levels up. For some reason they preferred staying close to the perimeter fence on the eastern boundary of the Okonjima Nature Reserve where little prey is available. After the tragic death of her sister Needle, Pins was forced to lead a solitary life after all. Suddenly being all on her own and without her sister’s support we were worried that she would not be able to hold her ground out there in the wild. However, our fears were unfounded and to date, she is well and hunting successfully on her own. 

cheetah pinscheetah pinscheetah pins

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 December 2014 14:01

Hits: 5862

The Wild Dogs - Part 2: Team FIFA and The Wild Dog Management Plan 2014 / 2015

INTRODUCING TEAM FIFA - AFRICAT’S NEW GENERATION OF WILD DOGS

wild dog pups messi robin jogirobin yawning messi middle jogiwild dog team fifawild dog yogi puppy teethyogi neck wound

Our three 'painted dog' pups - Jogi, Messi and Robin from the Okakarara region, (approx 100km from AfriCat HQ), arrived at AfriCat on the evening of 14th of July 2014.
We estimated their age between 5 to 6 weeks old. They were found abandoned and in poor condition, together with 6 other puppies that unfortunately were found dead by the time Jogi Messi and Robin were rescued. These 3 orphaned African Wild Dog puppies were handed over to the M.E.T (Ministry of Environment and Tourism), by the local community, who had found them after their pack had apparently been poisoned and shot.

The surviving pups – two males and one female - looked skinny and emaciated when they were given into the care of AfriCat. The males both had deep incisions around their neck suggesting that they had been tied-up with a piece of wire before they were brought to the M.E.T offices. This also suggested that they had probably been in close contact with domestic dogs, and as they often serve as transmitters of diseases like rabies, parvovirus or canine distemper . . . . this was very worrying.

 

The exposure to infectious diseases has contributed to the threatened status of the African Wild Dog, which have been classified as "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in the past.
Tanzania is one of the few protected ecosystems in Africa that is able to support a viable population of wild dogs, especially within the Serengeti National Park. However, these areas are also affected by outbreaks of the rabies virus (RV) and canine distemper virus (CDV). The 'fluid boundary' between national park and villages facilitates the close contact between wildlife and domestic pets and thus, increases the threat of disease transmissions. Domestic dogs have been identified as the major source of the RV and CDV - both of which cause significant mortality in wild carnivore populations, as well as posing a serious threat to humans. An outbreak of CDV in 1994 killed more than 1000 lions in the Serengeti, and was also responsible for the death of approximately 50 wild dogs within two months in 2000. Preventative vaccination programs are in place for domestic dogs and cats which live around the national park in an attempt to prevent the further spread of these diseases.

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Left Messi, Right Jogi.
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Messi.
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Robin.

ROBIN, the slightly smaller female did not have injuries around her neck, but she developed a large abscess on her right hind leg on day 2, which had to be cleaned twice a day.
MESSI was also was treated for diarrhoea. All 3 pups had temperatures over 39 deg C , whilst the males’ rose over 40 deg C at times. After treating them with the long-term antibiotic, 'convenia' - their temperatures stabilized quickly. Their wounds slowly closed and have completely healed today. According to the 3 vets who were on 24hr standby to give us advice and direction, wild dogs are always in a critical phase until they pass 12 – 15 weeks of age!

After spending the first two months, close to the office and clinic complex at the AfriCat’s Care Centre in a semi-open holding facility, our three dogs finally moved into a bigger enclosure mid September, after receiving their first vaccinations against rabies and canine distemper. This new area provided enough space and room for their increasing level of activity.

wilddog pups messi robin jogimessifront messi behind jogi african wild dogswilddog team fifa

Although little ROBIN was 4.2 kg, she was still considerably smaller than her brothers who surpassed her easily by 2 kg. However, she had managed to almost double her weight within a few weeks.
Then another problem arose . . . she was losing parts of her fur - especially around the neck, belly and hips. We were not sure what caused that loss of hair since the fur of her two brothers was growing beautifully. In domestic puppies hair loss can be caused by something as simple as heavy shedding or by more serious causes such as disease, parasites, allergies, stress, an unbalanced diet and vitamin deficiencies. We treated all three puppies against mange – a skin disease caused by parasitic mites that results in hair loss, bald spots, scabbing and sores in dogs – and additionally changed their diet by adding more essential fatty acids. Since doing all of this, her condition has improved significantly and her hair is growing back nicely.

In the meanwhile JOGI was causing us some more concern:
In the beginning of September he was observed with a serious limp in his right hind leg, such that he was only using 3 legs. He was treated with an anti-inflammatory analgesic and was examined to find possible causes, but neither exterior nor interior injuries could be determined. Despite his limp, he did not show any signs of weakness or a decreased level of activity. His condition clearly improved, but a slight instability was still visible and so we decided to take him for X-rays to find the cause behind his wobbling walking. To make the 50 km trip to Otjiwarongo easier, Jogi was slightly sedated for the transport. The X-ray showed some thickening of the bone in the middle of his tibia. For comparison, another X-ray was taken of the healthy hind leg, which revealed a site where the leg had broken previously. His limp was first noticed in the first week of September. Despite a slight mal-alignment that will improve over time, as he grows and lays down more bone, the fracture has healed well by itself.

We are not sure what caused the break, but it is possible that it occurred because the bones of all the puppies were weaker than they should have been. This is often the case in hand-reared carnivores, and is mostly due to an insufficient diet. In the wild, pups are given regurgitated meat that contains essential enzymes and pro-biotic bacteria which enhance the digestive and absorptive capabilities of the pup. This can be difficult to artificially supply to hand-reared pups, and therefore their diet suffers as a result.

jogi     Jogi

 

Currently our pups’ diet consists of a mix of minced chicken necks, minced game meat, high quality pup food, fat, eggs as well as calcium supplement and is alternately enhanced by liver and fresh meat and bones.

 

The pups are now about 7.5 months old (Dec 2014) and on the 2 December were released into a larger, 3ha enclosure that is connected to their current camp. This new area will give them the opportunity to slowly acclimatize to their natural habitat and vegetation, and also to the electrical fencing. (important as it prevents them digging beneath the fences)

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In the long term we hope that we can unite Okonjima’s new generation of wild dogs with our existing pack in the 20 000ha reserve? What the chances are that Rex, Ricky and Raine will actually accept new members into their pack - we are not 100% sure? Only a few studies have tried to artificially integrate unrelated wild dogs into an existing pack.

Theory says the smaller the pack, the better the chances there are that the additional members will be recruited. Pack augmentation produces a wide range of benefits such as reproduction, improved foraging efficiency and pack and individual persistence. Due to the fact that our existing pack has only three members, we are hoping that the chances of them accepting our three orphans may be quite good. We shall see.

Our goal to integrate them, will take place next year when Jogi, Messi and Robin are older, and considered to be Yearlings (10 - 18 months). Until then, they will stay in the care of AfriCat and act as Ambassadors for their species for our visitors to AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre.

Projects involving the integration of 2 different 'packs' have only taken place between orphaned pups and an established family which have existing pups of their own.
One study reported successful integration of an adult female with her three pups (3 months old) into an existing pack (2 males, 2 females). It was suggested that the augmentation of this relatively small incoming pack size was helped along by the benefits to their overall ability to forage and survive. The two separate groups were first kept in a holding enclosure (80x65m) that was separated by a fence for about 6 months. The fence was removed a month prior to release because the dogs kept digging beneath it. For the integration of our own 2 packs, it is important that the fencing we use is 'digging-proof' , as studies show that serious injury or death can result from inter group clashes.

 

"There is some chance that your adult sibling group might adopt the younger pups, but in my experience, wild dogs that have been raised in captivity behave very differently from wild dogs that have had a normal upbringing (meaning naturally, in the wild).
Any wild dog that has been brought up naturally by other adult wild dogs will have had experience as a yearling helping to raise pups (usually their younger siblings) in their natal pack. This experience is gained with the supervision of the parents of the pups, so any misbehaviour gets reprimanded and corrected very quickly. So, while at least part of the natural desire to care for young pups is innate, there is clearly a certain amount that must be learned. There is some evidence from the North American captive zoo population that bad mothers (those that fail to care for pups properly, sometimes killing them all) are females that never had the chance to be a helper and assist a more experienced mother raise a litter before being in a position to raise her own. In light of this, and that your sibling group of adults were raised in captivity, I suspect there is a good chance they will not respond in the typical way that I expect wild reared dogs to when presented with unknown pups (for adoption).
I think your suggestion to present them but keep them isolated by an enclosure is sensible, and might allow you to observe the response of the adult group to the pups and evaluate whether there appears to be aggression or extreme interest. From there, it will be a gamble as to whether to release them together.”
Tico McNutt - Botswana

 

After weeks of intensive care and overcoming obstacles in their early lives, our pups have grown into beautiful and active young dogs.

Their names are all associated with the 2014 World Cup. JOGI - the bigger and more dominant of the two males, is proudly named after the German coach Joachim "JOGI" LÖW. Male # 2 is named after LIONEL MESSI, the Argentine footballer and star player of the FC Barcelona. Our female, ROBIN, derived her name from a combo, honouring the Dutch player ARJEN ROBBEN (slightly varied in the spelling) and the very brilliant, ROBIN VAN PERSIE . . .

 

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CANINE DISTEMPER:

What Is Canine Distemper?
Canine distemper is a virus that affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye.

What Are the General Symptoms of Canine Distemper?
The first signs of canine distemper include sneezing, coughing and thick mucus coming from the eyes and nose. Fever, lethargy, sudden vomiting and diarrhea, depression and/or loss of appetite are also symptoms of the virus.

How Do Dogs Get Canine Distemper?
The virus is passed from dog to dog through direct contact with fresh urine, blood or saliva. Sneezing, coughing and sharing food and water bowls are all possible ways for the virus to be passed on.

When Is it Time to See the Vet?
Immediately! Please see your vet right away if you suspect your dog has been infected with the canine distemper virus. The virus spreads rapidly and must be aggressively treated as soon as it’s discovered.

How Is Canine Distemper Diagnosed?
Canine distemper tests do exist, but the results alone are not always reliable. Rather than just testing for the infection, your vet has to look at the whole picture, including a dog’s specific symptoms and health history. Positive results can help confirm an infection, but a dog can still be infected even if test results are negative.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Canine Distemper?
Puppies and adolescent dogs who have not been vaccinated are most vulnerable to the distemper virus. They are typically rescues with unknown vaccination histories or have been bought from pet stores.
Serious infections are most often seen in puppies or adolescent dogs. Puppies younger than seven weeks, born to mothers who haven’t been vaccinated against the virus, are extremely susceptible. Once infected, puppies are severely weakened. Often the virus travels to the brain, causing seizures, shaking and trembling. A weakened immune system leaves an infected dog open to secondary infections like pneumonia.

How Can Canine Distemper Be Prevented?
Make sure your dog has completed his series of vaccinations. The vaccine for dogs is called the distemper shot. If you have a puppy, make sure he gets his first vaccination at six to eight weeks of age. Be sure to keep him away from any possibly infectious dogs or environments until he’s finished with his vaccinations at four or five months old.
Also, routine cleaning and disinfecting your home (or kennel) will ensure that the virus is not in your dog’s living environment.

How Can Canine Distemper Be Treated?
There is currently no available medication that can destroy the virus that causes canine distemper. Rather, supportive care is the mainstay of treatment. Veterinarians can offer intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and antibiotics to ward off secondary infections while the infected dog builds up his immune response. Some dogs are able to survive the infection, while for others canine distemper can be fatal.

Are There Lasting Health Issues?
Dogs who recover from canine distemper may have seizures or other central nervous system disorders that may not show up until many years later—sometimes in their old age. They may also be left with permanent brain and nerve damage, and these symptoms also may not show up until years later.

 

Canine Distemper Outbreaks Additional Threat to African Wild Dogs!
The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), also called Cape hunting or painted dog, has been extirpated from large parts of its former range. In recent years exposure to diseases from domestic dogs, largely due to human encroachment in the areas close to the parks, has added to the threats this endangered species faces.

Lions, jackals and foxes have also been lost to canine distemper, adding to concerns that this domestic dog disease be controlled. Pet vaccination programs, especially in areas close to African national parks have the potential to reduce the risk of further canine distemper outbreaks.

The African wild dog is not the only species affected by the presence of canine distemper virus. In 1978, black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) and bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis) in the Serengeti and Masai Mara National Parks suffered from an outbreak of this dog disease. In 1994, a distemper outbreak in the same area affected lions (Panthera leo) in the same African national park systems.

In both outbreaks a link was made to domestic dogs kept as pets as the likely source of the disease. A distemper epidemic in Namibia’s black-backed jackals between 2001 and 2003 was also linked to exposure to domestic dogs.

As human populations in African wild dog habitat grow, those wild dogs will have increased risk of exposure to domestic dog diseases. Finding, capturing and safely vaccinating African wild dogs can be difficult. Vaccinating pets in the area is a simpler, more cost effective way to reduce risk to all African predatory species that are susceptible to dog diseases.

Companion animal vaccination programs have the added benefit of protecting local human population from exposure to dog diseases, including rabies. Vaccination programs can also be a catalyst for educating people about the value of African wild dogs and other susceptible wild animals found locally, potentially reducing human–animal conflict with native species.

The cheetah's low density may offer some measure of protection against infectious disease; for example, cheetahs were not affected by an outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus in the Serengeti National Park which killed over 1/3 of the lion population.

 

 

Wild Dog Management Plan 2014 | 2015

This management plan outlines the history and future management of the six wild dogs currently on the farm Okonjima (farm nr. 128) as well as The AfriCat Foundation’s policy for any future wild dogs that may be rehabilitated by the organisation.
This plan is formulated along the guidelines set out in the:

  • Regional conservation strategy for cheetah and African wild dog in Southern Africa (IUCN/SCC 2007)
  • Namibian Captive Wild Dog (Lycon pictus) Management Plan (2011) final report from the Workshop held 5-6 October 2011 in Windhoek, Namibia
  • National Conservation Action Plan for the wild dog in Namibia (2013 Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Government of Namibia Draft copy available 20 Oct 2014).

History Of AfriCat's Wild Dogs

Older Dogs

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In May 2005 AfriCat received seven, 3–4 week-old wild dog pups from Okakarara, Otjozondjupa Region where the rest of the pack had been poisoned. The pups had been buried alive and dug out by a Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) agricultural extension officer and then handed over to AfriCat. They were in a critical condition at the time and two died soon afterwards, five were reared to adulthood.

Reintroduction to the farm of origin was impossible as the communal farmers of that area were not tolerant of wild dogs. When the pups were four months old, all direct contact with humans was stopped, except for veterinary emergencies. One dog was treated for gastric torsion and one for a leg fracture. The males were vasectomised when approximately 15 months old. In 2009, one dog died from haemorrhagic gastritis and congenital kidney failure.

In the same year, the dogs were prepared for introduction into the then, 16 000 ha private rehabilitation Nature Reserve on Okonjima by relocating them to a 5ha enclosure, 7 km from AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre, which borders the park. In May 2010, the dogs were vaccinated against rabies, canine distemper, and corona, para-influenza and parvo viruses, and they were fitted with collars for tracking. A change in hierarchy among the females was observed at this time. The dogs were released into the reserve on 9 September 2010. They were closely monitored for three weeks and assisted when hunting was not successful. They took nearly 8–10 months before becoming completely independent. We suspect that this was due to a weak leader and no pack example to teach them how to hunt. In November 2011 the Okonjima Reserve was enlarged from 16 000 to 20 000 ha.

In 2012 one dog had a front leg amputated as a result of being kicked by a giraffe. In 2013 one dog sustained a multiple leg fracture, which healed successfully after a protracted healing process. All the wild dogs were confined to a small enclosure for six weeks during both healing processes. One of the other dogs has since died (Jan 2014) from a head injury sustained during a giraffe hunt.

AfriCat therefore has three adult wild dogs; two females and one male. The male has one front limb amputated. One dog is collared with a VHF collar and they are monitored by Okonjima guides, viewed by tourists from vehicles or on foot and are used as ambassadors for the species for the AfriCat Environmental Education Programme. They are also ambassadors of the free ranging wild dogs of the Namibia African Wild Dog Project, a research and conservation project in the Mangetti Cattle Ranch with which AfriCat is involved, in conjunction with N/a'an ku sê Foundation and NNF. The dogs are self-sufficient hunters.

The Namibian African Wild Dog Project.

Wild Dog Project Update 2014

 

Younger Wild Dog Pups

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On the 14th July 2014 AfriCat was requested by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to collect three orphaned wild dog pups (two male and one female) from Okakarara. They had been handed over to MET by community members. The three pups had been found with six other dead pups.

The pups recovered under the care of the AfriCat team. They were initially housed in a semi-open holding facility at the AfriCat headquarters’ Carnivore Care Centre for two months. After that they were moved to a larger open camp with reduced human contact. Before being moved to the new camp the pups were vaccinated with Recombitek C4/CV (against canine distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, coronavirus and parainfluenza virus) and Rabisin (against rabies)

The present camp consists of two (10 m x 20 m) enclosures fenced with jackal-proof fencing. The ground is cleared and shelter is in the form of shade cloth around the fences, areas shaded with shade cloth and an artificial den. Environmental enrichment includes tyres, logs, bones, a small concrete bathing/drinking pool and introduction of different parts of fresh carcasses. One male pup sustained a tibial fracture, which healed without incident.

The pups have minimal human contact with AfriCat staff. On 2 December 2014, the 3 puppies were released into a 3ha enclosure to acclimatize to their natural habitat and vegetation.

 

Management Plan

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Older Dogs
The adult dogs will continue to be viewed by guests at Okonjima. They will be monitored closely to assess their condition and hunting success, especially the individual that has had his leg amputated. Human intervention in terms of veterinary care or supplemental feeding will be considered if the decision is made that the welfare of the dogs would be compromised without it. An attempt will be made to introduce the pups to the older dogs at a later stage. Details of this plan can be found below.

Younger Pups
The pups are being prepared for rehabilitation to the Okonjima Nature Reserve.


Short Term

The pups will be housed in their present enclosure as the first step of their rehabilitation. When the pups are acclimatised to natural vegetation and have learned to avoid electric fencing, they will be moved to a larger (5 ha) fenced rehabilitation camp bordering the 20 000 ha Okonjima Game Reserve in order to prepare them for release into the reserve.


Introduction to Older Dogs

The older wild dogs may interact with the pups if they approach the rehabilitation enclosure while the pups are housed there. Interaction between the dogs and the pups (across an electrified fence) will be encouraged by attracting the older dogs to the rehabilitation camp with the use of dragged bait and wild dog calls. The rehabilitation camp may be divided in two, in order to enclose the adult dogs in close proximity to the pups. The behaviour of the dogs and pups will be closely monitored during these interactions to assess whether the older dogs could possibly incorporate the pups into their pack.


Long Term

If the interaction between the pups and the adult dogs is promising, the two groups will be acclimatised until an encounter between the groups without a fence between them will pose as little threat to any of the dogs as possible. If both groups accept each other they will be enclosed in the rehabilitation camp together and later released. We believe that this will be the best possible scenario for the continued rehabilitation and welfare of the pack.

If the existing pack is antagonistic towards the pups, repeated introductions between the two groups will continue under different conditions until either the dogs accept each other or we decide that the groups cannot be safely combined.

If a safe combination of the packs is impossible, the pups will be rehabilitated without the adults. They will then either be released onto the reserve separately from the existing pack, in an area far from the pack’s home range, or retained in an area separated from the older dogs by electrified fences. If the new pups cannot immediately be released onto the Okonjima Game Reserve they will be released at a later stage. It is AfriCat’s policy not to allow these pups to remain in captivity longer than strictly necessary.

Before release, the male dogs will be vasectomised and all three collared with radio collars. After release, the dogs will be monitored intensely by AfriCat and Okonjima staff and viewed by guests as ambassadors for the species.

 

Possible Constraints to AfriCat’s Plan
It may be impossible to introduce the pups to the older pack without conflict. Even after successful introduction and release together, intra pack fighting may still be fatal to some dogs. This may be exacerbated because despite our best efforts all the dogs were raised in an artificial manner without the supervision of adult wild dogs.

We feel that a pack of three is too small to function as a wild dog pack. The older dogs, although independent and successful hunters are not as successful as a larger pack would be. The pups may find it difficult to develop their hunting skills as such a small unit if they are forced to do so alone.  

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Justification for keeping Wild Dogs on Okonjima

The AfriCat foundation raised the older wild dogs from pups and successfully introduced them into the Okonjima Game Reserve, where they have become self-sufficient hunters. The foundation is fully equipped in term of facilities and staff to continue to raise orphaned members of this endangered species and to provide for their continued welfare.

In the process of raising the older dogs and preparing them for release, AfriCat was able to build on the current knowledge of how to successfully raise and rehabilitate this species. We were able to safely use electric fencing to enclose wild dogs, this was previously not believed to be possible. We have improved the diet for pups and been able to monitor successful healing of bone fractures in both pups and adults. For two years we have been able to monitor the successful hunting of a three legged wild dog.

The wild dogs play an important role in the ecology of Okonjima Game Reserve. The interaction between predator and prey species is being researched to determine viable stocking densities and the viability of keeping predators in a functional game farm. The 200 km2 Okonjima Game Reserve can accommodate a pack of approximately five to seven wild dogs according to specialists who took into consideration prey density, species and park size.

The rehabilitated wild dogs are a popular attraction for visitors to Okonjima, which helps to raise funds for The AfriCat Foundation. At the same time, the dogs function as ambassadors for the species, creating awareness for the plight of wild dogs in Namibia and the rest of Africa. They are also ambassadors for the Namibian African Wild Dog Project, an ongoing research project on the free-ranging wild dogs of Namibia and a collaboration between the N/a'an ku sê Foundation, the Namibian Nature Foundation and The AfriCat Foundation.

The Wild Dogs are also ambassadors of the species to the participants of the AfriCat Environmental Education Program which provides an opportunity for both children and adults to learn more about Namibia’s carnivores, the threats facing them and solutions to conflicts between people and wildlife.

The AfriCat Environmental Education Programme

Environmental Education

Many Namibians have never had the opportunity to see a wild dog and viewing them in their natural habitat helps foster an appreciation for this misunderstood species.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 18 February 2016 00:10

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Dizzy - A story about a rehabilitated cheetah mother!

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Dizzy – a successfully rehabilitated AfriCat cheetah and first time mother in the Okonjima Nature Reserve, has raised her female cub Spirit to adulthood. And now she’s done it again! In July 2014 Dizzy gave birth to her second litter – this time consisting of four little ones.

Spirit, already weighing in at 32 kg at a year old, was deserted by her mother at 13 months, but is hunting and surviving on her own and is completely independent and self-sufficient. She is the only survivor of the 2013 litter which initially compromised three cubs – the first cheetah cubs ever born in the Okonjima Nature Reserve. 

 

DIZZY GIVES BIRTH TO THE FIRST CHEETAH CUBS EVER BORN IN THE OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE.

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Dizzy, whose territory has mainly been the north-western part of the 200 km² Okonjima Nature Reserve, was seen in the south in mid-January 2013, mating with one of our male cheetahs, Bones. She returned, but on 10 April she was spotted in the south again and, lo and behold, six days later on 16 April 2013 she gave birth to three cubs. Our very first cheetah cubs in the Okonjima Nature Reserve!

During the first two months of motherhood, Dizzy stayed mostly in the southern part of the 20 000ha Park, instinct intact and moving her cubs to different den sites on a regular basis. She managed to make a few successful kills, but the prey density in this area was not high. In rough times and in order to keep her energy up, Team AfriCat helped her out by occasionally dropping a fresh warthog carcass etc. when she was found close to a water point or in an area away from her young|den-site.
(Lactating cheetahs require almost twice as much food as non-lactating females and have to hunt every day in order to meet their nutritional needs and feed their cubs.)

On 2 July 2013 one of the Okonjima guides found Dizzy in the south-western part of the reserve – in a fight with the cheetah siblings Coco, Spud and Bones (rehabilitated cheetahs, released in May 2010 – two of the three are siblings), and with only two of the three cubs visible. In search of the lost cub, Team AfriCat monitored Dizzy closer than ever in the following days – with no success. The lost cub remained missing, although Dizzy herself called her cub constantly for days. We are not certain of what happened exactly, but strongly suspect the cheetah trio to be involved in the loss of the cub.

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With only two cubs left, Dizzy moved up north into her former territory and was found on kills more regularly.

Barely three weeks later while out monitoring her well-being, we unfortunately became 'ear'-witnesses to the death of her second cub.

 

On 21 July 2013, Team AfriCat went out to check up on Dizzy and her two cubs. Approaching her on foot, we found her sitting under a tree about 30 metres away. She suddenly ran off into thick bush. Our first thought that she might be on a hunt was quickly dispelled when we heard a leopard growl in the distance. Team AfriCat feared the worst – 'perhaps it was Dizzy who wouldn’t survive an encounter with a wild, un-collared leopard while trying to protect her cubs?'. But what we found was her second cub – freshly killed. Once the leopard had moved away, she went back to her dead cub, started to lick it and kept on licking for quite some time before she and her remaining cub moved off. She never called for it again after moving away. She remained in the north for a few days and then slowly made her way back into the central part of the reserve accompanied by Spirit, her champion three month old surviving cub.

saying goodbye to dead cheetah cubsaying goodbye to dead cheetah cubsaying goodbye to dead cheetah cub13

In mid-August 2013 mother and daughter had to face another daunting experience – once again involving the cheetah trio Coco, Spud and Bones. After Dizzy successfully managed to hunt a duiker, the three siblings who were in the area, immediately moved in and stole her kill. While Coco (female) was satisfied and happy with the free meal, Spud and Bones however (both male), went after the mother and daughter with a vengeance, trying to attack her and her cub, which instinctively disappeared into thick bush. Team AfriCat was able to intervene and chased the cheetah trio away. To make matters worse a wild dog pack of four joined the commotion and started to attack Dizzy as well. Luckily we were present at the time and had the opportunity to intervene and could lure the dogs about a kilometre away from the fracas. Both Dizzy and her cub survived and seemed to be fine. Because we know that Dizzy always defends her kills, we supplied her with a piece of meat to keep her away from the siblings. We went out early the next morning to check the situation and ascertain whether Dizzy and her cub were safe, but again we found the wild dog pack attacking Dizzy. Once more we moved in between the scramble in order to chase the dogs off – successfully! The dogs gave up after a while and Dizzy and her cub quickly moved out of the area.

 

Dizzy and Spirit

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From then on Dizzy and her little champ mainly roamed areas in the central and southern part of the reserve and were regularly found on kills.

 

THE SALTPANS, SWAKOP & MUNDI:

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Mundi
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Swakop

In November 2013, two young orphaned cheetahs were rescued from the saltpans in Swakopmund. They were found close to death and without their mother, lying in the open on a saltpan past 'Mile 4'. Both were about 8 months old – a few months younger than Dizzy’s cub Spirit at that time. Both cubs had been born in the wild, perhaps in the desert, and were not habituated in any way. In fact they were terrified of humans and found captivity extremely stressful in the beginning.

saltpans arrive nov 2013saltpans arrive nov 2013saltpans arrive nov 2013

Placing them into the AfriCat Care Centre would mean a few years of captivity before they were old enough to be rehabilitated and released back into the wild, so we had an idea! Maybe, just maybe Dizzy would adopt these two orphaned cubs and teach them how to hunt and survive in the wild? However there were a few setbacks before this trial project could start: one was the high rainfall late in the season, and secondly, the cubs were so wild and would not allow us close to monitor the situation. They needed to trust man a little more before we could release all of them together. So we only tackled the project in April 2014.

AfriCat supporter, Sue Olsen came to the rescue and generously offered to sponsor the whole project. Dizzy and Spirit were darted and placed in a 5ha enclosure, bordering the 20 000ha Nature Reserve – together with the 'Saltpans'. We placed cameras in the enclosure to monitor their behaviour and movements because we couldn’t be physically present 24:7. But unfortunately the potential fairytale did not turn out as we had hoped . . .

Even though Dizzy did not physically attack them, she also didn’t show any interest in bonding with either of them. She kept them away from Spirit as well and would not share any water and food with them. After a month of trying, we made the decision to release Dizzy and Spirit back into the Okonjima Nature Reserve – without Swakop and Mundi.

We also didn’t want the successful Dizzy-Spirit duo’s fortune to fade and for them to lose their territory. The mission was aborted and the Saltpans returned to AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre. The Saltpans have now joined the long waiting list of healthy, young, captive cheetahs that are in line for rehabilitation at a later stage.

meeting the saltpans first time
Meeting The Saltpans for the first time.
meeting the saltpans first time
Meeting The Saltpans for the first time.
watching the saltpans
Dizzy and Spirit watching The Saltpans.
watching the saltpans
Dizzy and Spirit watching The Saltpans.
dizzy spirit agressive towards saltpans
Dizzy and Spirit aggressive towards The Saltpans.
dizzy spirit agressive towards saltpans
Dizzy and Spirit aggressive towards The Saltpans.

 

Once released, Dizzy and Spirit behaved as if nothing had happened and mainly roamed areas around Serenjima – an open plain in the southern-central part of the Nature Reserve.

dizzy spirit cheetah familydizzy spirit cheetah family7dizzy spirit cheetah family8

On 21 May 2014 about a week after the release, Dizzy was found on a fresh steenbok kill – but where was Spirit?

Dizzy wasn’t showing any signs of stress and neither did she call for her lost cub. Alarms were ringing everywhere and everyone was alerted to be on the look-out for one of our favourite cheetahs. The next days passed, but there was still no sign of Spirit. Because mother and daughter were always together and because Spirit was only a year old and still growing fast, we had previously decided not to collar her. Cheetahs are known to wean their cubs between 13 and 24 months, but Penta only weaned hers after they turned two. We were sure that Dizzy and Spirit still had a lot of mother-daughter time together and collaring Spirit was not on the agenda for now.

Fortunately luck was on our side and four days after Spirit went missing, we found her not too far from her mother – looking lost and alone, but alive! We decided not to let this opportunity slip and darted her the following morning. After a short recovery at the AfriCat’s Care Centre, we released her the same afternoon close to Dizzy who had been found on a kudu kill the previous day. After a while of eye contact between mother and daughter, Spirit ran off into the bush while Dizzy continued eating the last bits of her kill. Spirit started calling her mother – but there was no response. While Dizzy was still found in the same area the next day, Spirit had moved away. Female cheetahs usually leave their cubs when they are about 18 months old, so why did Dizzy decide to leave her 13-month-old cub so early? What we didn’t know at that point was that Dizzy was already preparing for her next litter. We then remembered that we had seen her on 4 April 2014, again with Bones – one of our male cheetahs and most likely the sire of her previous litter.

 

DIZZY DOES IT AGAIN . . .

During the end of June, Dizzy left her usual territory and moved into the south of the Okonjima Nature Reserve – exactly as she had done shortly before she gave birth to her previous cubs in April 2013.

dizzy 2nd litter july2014dizzy 2nd litter july2014dizzy 2nd litter7 july2014dizzy 2nd litter july2014dizzy 2nd litter july2014dizzy 2nd litter july2014

The gestation period of cheetahs ranges between 90 and 98 days, which gave us an indication that she might drop soon again. She was seen regularly by the Okonjima guides and also monitored closely by our AfriCat field/research team – all keeping a close eye on her since her 'rendezvous' with Bones did date back to three months. On 6 July 2014, we found her with four newborn cubs in dense grassland – well hidden under an acacia scrub.

At the same time, the cheetah siblings – Bones, Coco and Spud, were seen close to the area where Dizzy was hiding her newborn cubs.

On the evening of 9 July, one of the Okonjima guides alerted us that the sibling trio had surrounded Dizzy’s den. When Team AfriCat arrived, Dizzy was trying to protect her cubs from the cheetah coalition. Our research team tried to lure them as far as possible from the den, since there wasn’t much Dizzy could do to keep all three at a distance. They followed us for quite a distance and we hoped that they would move off in the opposite direction.

The next morning Dizzy was found with only one cub back in her den. In search of the missing three cubs, we found two of them lying a few meters away from the den – wet all over, but still alive. The third one unfortunately wasn’t that lucky, and we found it dead on the other side of the den. The trio of adults was found close to the den, so we assumed that they had turned around the previous night and were responsible for the cub’s death.

After that incident and having the recent loss of Penta’s cubs in mind, the decision was made to dart Dizzy and move her and her three remaining cubs to a protected area – a 5ha enclosed area where she can raise her cubs under monitored conditions for the first few months. When her cubs are strong enough and can run from danger, we will release them back into the 20 000 ha Nature Park, back into her own territory.

Until we can raise the funds to open more plains in the Park, we will have to manage our rehabilitated cheetahs and for now, all female cheetahs have been given long-acting, reversible contraceptives.

 

stressed dizzy with cub

 

Back to Dizzy. The first night and day in her new 'unfamiliar territory', Dizzy was very stressed – carrying her one cub up and down the perimeter fence and ignoring the other two. The team spent hours monitoring the situation and when she left the one cub unprotected, we returned it to the den and fed her close to the cubs to encourage her to go back to them and to settle down.

By the end of the second day she had calmed down and we realized that she must have picked up Spud’s scent everywhere – as he had been released from that area, recovering from an accident while hunting), only days prior to her arrival and she wanted to get as far away from him as possible.

dizzy 2nd litter july2014dizzy 2nd litter july2014dizzy 2nd litter july2014dizzy 2nd litter july2014

In order to monitor Dizzy and the well-being of her cubs and to cause as little disturbance as possible, we installed a remote camera trap next to the den site for the first weeks. It took a few days before Dizzy acclimatised in her new environment, but she soon showed us what great potential she has as a mother. Following her natural instincts, she changed her den sites regularly and protected her cubs fiercely if anyone dared to approach too close. Within two months, Dizzy moved her cubs between three different den sites, where they were almost invisible beneath thick layers of branches.

 

At the beginning of August, Team AfriCat observed the three cubs outside their safe den site for the very first time.

The cubs are now five months old (December2014) and have developed from tiny fur balls into active and curious cheetah cubs that follow their mother’s every step.

In a few months, when the cubs are older and strong enough to recognize and run away from danger, Dizzy’s new family will be released back into the Okonjima Nature Reserve.

Dizzy’s pregnancy explained and confirmed at least one of the theories why she didn't accept the two orphaned cubs, Swakop and Mundi. She had other plans that we were totally ignorant of!

cubs2 karen pics oct2014cubs karen pics oct2014cubs karen pics oct2014cubs karen pics oct2014cubs karen pics oct2014cubs karen pics oct2014

 

DIZZY’S FAST FACTS:

  • Dizzy and her group – Ruff Tumble Dash & Baxter came to AfriCat during 2008, and the five grew up together at AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre.
  • When caught, both Dizzy (8 months of age from Windhoek area) and Baxter (6 months) were alone, without their mother or any siblings. Ruff, Tumble and Dash came from the Windhoek area – Baxter from the Okahandja area.
  • 1 June 2012, the cheetahs were released into the 200 km² Okonjima Nature Reserve.
  • Sadly, Baxter was killed by a Spotted Hyena only a short time after their release. He was the weakest of the coalition, always lagging behind, and was not especially alert (weak genes maybe?).
  • On their release into the Okonjima Nature Reserve, they stayed near the roads and the boundary fence, which was more familiar to them from their time in captivity. They started hunting very slowly, killing a steenbok or small warthog once a week. However, this was insufficient food to satisfy four cheetahs and consequently we had to supply them with meat on a regular basis. Four weeks after the release, Dizzy broke away from the coalition. Female cheetahs are solitary by nature and a few weeks later Dash, also broke away from the remaining males, Ruff and Tumble.
  • Dizzy was constantly on the move, making the odd kill for herself, in contrast to the others who mainly stayed in one place, did not hunt and waited to be fed by us every third day. This situation continued, and six months later Dizzy was making more and more kills, whereas the others had still not made any progress. Dash had rejoined her brothers by this time. Therefore, the tough decision was made to bring Dash, Ruff, and Tumble back to the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre, so that they could be better cared for. They have now become ambassadors for AfriCat, and are integrated into our education initiatives.
  • Dizzy’s hunting skills became better and better each day. From February 2013, she was found with a kill every third day, kudu calves being her favourite.
  • Dizzy turned 7 years old in 2014.

 

CUB MORTALITY

The first few months in a cheetah’s life are tough! We sadly had to discover that Penta’s four newborns (born 6 June 2014) were killed by wild dogs and didn’t even make it through their first month.

A high rate of offspring mortality in a cheetah population is, unfortunately, not exceptional.

  • A study conducted in the Serengeti Plains revealed a survival chance of only 5% from birth to adolescence with 70% of the cubs not making it through the first eight weeks. Predation by lions was found to be the major reason, among other factors such as abandonment, disease and environmental causes. Leopards accounted only for a small portion of deaths.
  • A study in the southern Kalahari, however, reported considerably different results: Even though lions and spotted hyenas were present, the chance of reaching adulthood was found to be almost seven times higher than in the plains of the Serengeti, with more than half the cubs surviving the first two months.
  • Studies in South African game reserves found an average survival rate of between 60% and 75%. from emergence to one year of age.
  • In a lion and spotted hyena-free area in Namibia, 78% of the cubs survived from emergence to independence – whereas fewer than 50% survived in another area under the same conditions.

These results suggest that the survival rate does not necessarily depends on the presence or absence of large predators. In many cases the cause of mortality is unknown and often falsely attributed to lions or other large carnivores. In a number of occasions, smaller carnivores such as jackals, honey badgers or even raptors have been observed killing cheetah cubs.

The extreme rate of cheetah cub mortality in the Serengeti may also be attributed to the large open plains that make it more difficult to find suitable dens and sufficient cover and therefore make cubs more vulnerable to predation.

Cheetahs are not the only species that are prone to cub mortality; it is an integral part of a multi-species ecosystem.

Interestingly, the survival rate of cheetahs in the Kalahari (33%) was found to be similar to the survival rate of leopard cubs (37%) in South African game reserves.

saying goodbye to dead cheetah cubsaying goodbye to dead cheetah cubsaying goodbye to dead cheetah cubsaying goodbye to dead cheetah cub9saying goodbye to dead cheetah cubsaying goodbye to dead cheetah cub

 

CONTRACEPTION

Contraception in Wildlife

Research Programmes

ALL our female Cheetahs have now been given contraceptive treatment. We will maintain this method of park-management until:

  • There is more funding available to debush more areas and create more open plains
  • We can introduce more springbok and impala, ideal cheetah prey-base – again funds permitting.

Contraception is a reversible process– and therefore all females will be able to have cubs in the park in the future, but will need to be managed. An island-bound conservation environment such as this needs to be managed differently to a wilderness area.

The ideal contraceptive for wildlife should have no side effects. It should also be safe in pregnant females, have minimal effects on behaviour, should not pass through the food chain, be affordable and delivery should be easy – ideally allowing remote delivery. In many cases a reversible method is preferable to permanent methods so that animals can breed again at a later stage.

dr henk bertschinger contraceptiondr henk bertschinger contraceptionwildlife contraceptive methods

WHY CONTRACEPTION RESEARCH IS NECESSARY

The annual health examinations of the cheetahs at AfriCat give invited specialist veterinarians the opportunity to conduct research on various aspects of animal health, particularly those relating to the health of large carnivores in captivity.

As well as providing expert information on the health of AfriCat’s animals, the examinations also allow for the comparison of results with similar studies being conducted on large carnivores in other captive facilities. Some of this information can also be used to gain insight into the health of large carnivores in the wild, hence AfriCat allowing the contraception research work on Okonjima.

  • At AfriCat the cheetah and leopard contraception programme started in 1998.
  • Deslorelin is a gonadotropin-releasing hormone(GnRH), which is very similar to the body's own GnRH which is secreted by the brain.
  • The implant, a small pellet, is injected subcutaneously on the side of the neck.
  • For cheetahs we use a 4.7mg implant which lasts approximately 18 months.
  • In lions we use double the dose and this lasts about 30 months until females conceive again.
  • In cheetahs it works in both females and males. In males it functions as a spermatogenesis and is an ongoing process. It takes 6–8 weeks for sperm to become nonviable. In females the effect is almost immediate.
  • Deslorelin can be used in baboons, monkeys, mandrills, wild dogs, leopards, tigers and a number of other species. It does not work so well in larger animals like elephants, where instead use is made of a contraceptive vaccine.
  • Deslorelin is self-reversing. After 18-24 months there is insufficient hormone released to suppress the release of the two gonadotropin hormones and so, slowly the animal will start cycling again. The first few cycles of a female will be infertile. The recovery in the male will be slow as well. Testosterone recovery is more rapid than the production of sperm, which will take months to recover. If we want to maintain contraception in male and female cheetahs we treat them annually during the annual health check. If on the other hand a cat is released into the wild and we want her/him to breed, we simply stop the treatment and allow the implants to reverse.
  • Group behaviour doesn't seem to have changed over the year, although males are less aggressive. In cases of aggressive or over-dominant males we can double the dose of the implant, which helps reduce aggression.
  • Most coalitions are siblings, although unrelated cheetahs can be habituated to form a group – contraception in this situation is beneficial, as it means fewer camps are needed and therefore the cats can have a bigger area to share.

NOTE: The modern wildlife contraceptive methods are: immunocontraception using either the porcine zona pellucida vaccine (successful in elephants) or GnRH vaccines (used to control aggression in elephant bulls, boar taint in male piglets, oestrous cycle of horses and many others) and hormonal contraception using a GnRH agonist implant.
Information supplied by Professor Henk Bertschinger.

 

Spirit

GENDER: Female
AGE: (2014) 1 year
WEIGHT: (2014) 32Kg
ORIGIN: Okonjima Nature Reserve
MOTHER: Dizzy
FATHER: Bones

Spirit is one of our cheetahs in the Okonjima Nature Reserve. Spirit was born 16 April 2013 and was one of the three cubs of Dizzy’s first litter. They were the first cheetahs that were born wild on the Okonjima Nature Reserve. Her father is Bones – leader of the infamous Siblings group (Coco, Spud & Bones). Her two siblings got killed at the age of 3 months. The first one unknown (suspect: one of the cheetahs) and the second one by a leopard. After the sudden death of her siblings, Spirit stuck to Dizzy’s side, learning all the skills of how to survive in the wild. She escaped three leopard attacks and an attack from the wild dogs and that is only the ones we know of. Carrying very good genes from mother Dizzy and father Bones, she already weighed 32 kilograms at 12 months old. Dizzy left her at the very young age of 13 months after she fell pregnant again from Bones. Spirit was a bit lost for the first two weeks, but then started making regular kills and now at 17 months old she is a beautiful, self-sustained female cheetah and solid proof that cheetah rehabilitation can be successful.

spirit may2014spirit may2014spirit may2014

DIZZY is another success story of the Okonjima Cheetah Rehabilitation Programme. http://www.africat.org/first-cheetah-cubs-born-wild-in-the-okonjima-nature-reserve

PENTA a reality check of how stressful rescue and release is.  http://www.africat.org/penta-and-cubs-the-quandary-of-rescue-and-release

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 December 2014 12:32

Hits: 6489

The Wild Dogs - Part 1: Rex, Ruby, Ricky and Raine

In May 2005 seven 3-week-old wild dog puppies arrived at AfriCat.

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Rearing five of them to adulthood was a certainly a journey full of trials and tribulations - Sadly we lost two puppies quite early on, but RAINE, RICKY, RUBY, REX and RUFUS kept us on our toes.

One thing that did astound us was the amazing bond the puppies had between them. Even though they were so tiny and there were no adult dogs in their small pack, they only needed us to supply the food . . . . and once that had disappeared (in a matter of milliseconds) they were quite happy with the company and companionship of each other for play and comfort.

Right from the start, RAINE was the alpha female and REX took the position of alpha male.
At 4 months of age we released our small pack into an enclosure and ceased all direct contact. In this enclosure they were taught about the importance of respecting electric fencing (which prevents digging)!

Life had some degree of normality until the age of nine months, but after this age they had many things to contend with.

It started with RUFUS having a Gastric Torsion. This required an emergency trip to the vet and a few worrying weeks while he recovered. For us the most painful part was hearing the other dogs crying and calling for him while he was away. This was the first time one of them had to be separated from the rest of the group.

At 10 months old RICKY fractured one of her legs and the separation once again was heart-wrenching. Apart from REX and  RUFUS having vasectomies (to prevent breeding between the siblings) which required them to be kept apart from the others for a short time, this close-knit group was not separated again.

Another memorable milestone was when the females went on heat for the first time. It was a real shock when the girls turned on each other and started fighting. It took us a while to figure out what was happening and we felt utterly helpless at having to watch these attacks take place without being able to intervene.

In September 2009 we lost RUFUS to Haemorrhagic Gastritis and Congenital Kidney Failure.
We were absolutely devastated as were the rest of the pack who called for their missing sibling for 2 weeks.

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5 years on, almost to the day of their arrival at AfriCat, the dogs were radio-collared, vaccinated and moved to a soft-release enclosure in preparation for their release into the, then, 16 000ha AfriCat|Okonjima Rehabilitation Nature Reserve. This was the first time that all the dogs were darted simultaneously and in spite of worrying about how they were going to react, everything ran smoothly.

However, there was a major change in the dog’s hierarchy when they all recovered from the anaesthetic! RAINE was no longer top dog as RICKI, formerly the underdog, had usurped Raine’s position! This came as a big surprise to us, but in fact this behaviour has been observed in captive wild dog and wolf packs before. REX, now the only male, endorsed this move, immediately stood by Ricki and didn’t leave her side.

 

9.11 – 2010: RELEASED INTO THE WILD!
The big day dawned and, unlike all the cheetah releases into the reserve, the dogs didn’t hesitate to leave the confines of the enclosure. They followed us out of the gate and just carried on running.
They were closely monitored for the first 3 weeks. AfriCat spent every day, all day from sunrise to sunset following the pack.
It took them nearly a year before they became completely self-sufficient, needing no more assistance from team AfriCat, and we saw them successfully treeing adult male leopards, cornering spotted hyaenas, and terrorising the cheetahs. As a group they feared no other predator.

wild dogs released into the wild2wild dogs released into the wild1wild dogs released into the wild3wild dogs in okonjima nature reserve2wilddogs comfortable around people3

 

AfriCat|Okonjima Wild Dog Fast Facts:

REX: Information on Rex
GENDER: Male
AGE: (2014) 9 years
WEIGHT: (2010) 26 Kg (2013) 27 Kg
ORIGIN: Okakarara (140 km east of Okonjima)
SIBLINGS / RELATIONS: Ruby, Ricky and Rex.
RELEASED INTO THE OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE: 11 September 2010

rex snarerex snare

Early October 2011: We were devastated when one of our Okonjima Guides discovered a snare around REX'S neck! More than 40% of animals caught in snares are 'non-target' captures, meaning they are not the animal wanted by the poacher! Animals caught in snares face slow, painful deaths and, in Africa, snares kill thousands of animals every year. However, in this case, the snare was safely removed and Rex was luckily unharmed!

Mid November 2011: REX was seen favouring his back, left leg? The hip-bone had become prominent and he was often seen running on only 3 legs, but seemed to keep up.

End January 2012: The 16 000ha Okonjima, private Reserve, became 20 000ha! All 4 dogs were immediately seen marking their new territory and they were venturing into new areas every day.
Then on the 7th of February 2012, late afternoon: REX and Co were discovered at a baby giraffe kill - REX limping badly. A giraffe kick, most probably, with force - hitting the 'humerus' bone half-way between the left shoulder and the elbow.

All 4 dogs moved back into Alcatraz (the 5ha, soft-release enclosure within the 20 000ha reserve) and REX was given a smaller, temporary home separated from his 3 siblings, but within the 5ha enclosure, for the next 6 weeks whilst recovering from his injury.

 rex xrayrex

8 Feb 2012: Taken to Otjiwarongo clinic a pin was placed into the (front left) humerus bone. The surgery took over 3 hours! (pinned - not plated)

16 February 2012: Back on the table – wound open and this time the vet came to us! We suspected that he had been licking it so much that all the stitches had come out. We also discovered that REX had broken 3 of his 4 canines – trying to escape from the smaller enclosure.

rex back on the tablerex back on the tablerex back on the tablerex recoveringrex recovering 

Middle March 2012: A German film crew documented the veterinary examination where X-rays of REX’S leg were taken, while the Perivoli Okonjima Country School children looked on and learnt all about the plight of the Wild Dog.
The outcome: Rex’s leg was not completely healed.

31 MAY 2012: Rex was driven back into Otjiwarongo as it was time to see how the bone had healed . . . . Good news! The pin was finally taken out!

13 June 2012: Rex’s leg seemed infected again. Dr Gerhard Steenkamp and Dr Adrian Tordiffe discover that the bone had broken once again, at the same spot. After a long discussion and the pro’s and cons of bone-grafts and another lengthy period of isolation were discussed in detail. A decision was then made to amputate.

rex amputationrex amputationrex amputationrex1 

10 July 2012: 5 months later - REX, RUBY, RAINE and RICKY were finally released back in the wild, after the accident in early February. What a beautiful morning when our OKONJIMA guests, the KUONI Campers and the PAWS volunteers - all came to witness their release!

17 July 2012: Rex and his 3 sisters caught their first kill since their release on 10 JULY.

December 2014: Rex has been doing well ever since, and is still a main player in the pack dynamics of the team.

rex doing well

 

RAINE: Information about Raine
GENDER: Female
AGE: (2014) 9 years
WEIGHT: (2010) 29.7 Kg (2013) 30 Kg
ORIGIN: Okakarara (140 km east of Okonjima)
SIBLINGS / RELATIONS: Ruby, Ricky and Rex.
RELEASED INTO THE OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE: 11 September 2010

 

19th of May 2013: Raine was kicked by either zebra or oryx - certainly something with a hard hoof - and the back, left tibia was snapped with 8 fractures.
Dr Tubbesing could not operate on that day - so her leg was strapped-up until we could get her to the clinic in Windhoek (220 km's from Okonjima).

raine xray raine xray raine xray raine xray raine xray

22 May 2013:  finally she was operated on and a plate with 13 pins was attached to anything it could hold onto, to stabilise the bone.
We separated her from the group and placed her in a small, soft release area bordering the park so that her siblings could spend time near her but she moved around too much and the plate snapped.
She was again taken to Windhoek - on the 20 June 2013 and bone was taken from her hip to strengthen the break. However, the plate snapped a 2nd time and she was once again rushed to Windhoek on the 1st July 2013!

A shorter and thicker plate was inserted this time, again by Dr Tubbesing - who donated his time and effort - but it was not easy for there was very little skin to cover the thicker plate. A decision was made to keep her with her group in the smaller enclosure for at least 6 weeks, until it had recovered properly. We were hopeful that she would recover faster if we kept them together, as she would not be tempted to move around so much.
Rex, Ruby and Ricky were all placed back into captivity to support their sister!

15 Aug 2013: All released back into the wild!

 

RICKY: Information about Ricky
GENDER: Female
AGE: (2014) 9 years
WEIGHT: (2010) 24 Kg (2013) 27,6 Kg
ORIGIN: Okakarara (140 km east of Okonjima)
SIBLINGS / RELATIONS: Ruby, Raine and Rex.
RELEASED INTO THE OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE: 11 September 2010

Still leader of the pack and since she fractured her leg at 10 months old and had to be separated from her siblings, she’s been going strong ever since.

ricky leader wilddog packricky leader wilddog packricky leader wilddog packricky leader wilddog packricky leader wilddog pack

 

RUBY killed: 7 January 2014 – Kicked in the head during a giraffe hunt. Siblings spent 3 days lying at her side, before moving away.

dead baby girafferuby killed

 


SO WHY WAS SO MUCH TIME & EFFORT & FUNDING SPENT ON THIS WILD DOG ?

The costs are enormous - and if it was not for Dr Tubessing's pro-bono work during the 2nd and 3rd operation of Raine - AfriCat would have had to think twice before spending this amount of money on the wild dogs.
However, they are important to us because:
- The pack is very small and every member is needed, especially because REX only has 3 legs and RAINE is one of the dominant hunters in the group! Without her - the group might well be in trouble.
- AfriCat has raised these pups since they were 2 - 3 wks old, which means we have already spent a great deal of time and money to ensure their survival , despite them being buried alive and their whole family poisoned.

 

Here is a list of how your donations can really make a difference for AfriCat:


N$50 food for 1 day for a cheetah, leopard or lion
N$250 food for 1 week for a cheetah, leopard or lion
N$250 weekend stay for 1 student at our Environmental Education Programme

N$3,000 VHF-radio collar for a cheetah or a leopard for tracking and research purposes
N$10,000 covers 1 serious veterinary procedure
N$10,000 2 trail cameras (white flash) for the Namibian African Wild Dog Project
N$25,000 GPS-Satellite collar for 1 lion for the AfriCat Hobatere Lion Research Project
N$40,000 building of 1 stock-kraal to protect cattle and goats for 1 village for our Live Stock Protection Programme.

 

Support AfriCat’s Wild Dogs:

Adopt a carnivore in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

Ways you can support AfriCat

 

Namibia African Wild Dog Project:

Namibia African Wild dog Project

NAWDP Update 2014

flo tammy camera mangettiariel survey team namibia 

In 2013 AfriCat, N/a’an ku sê and the Namibian Nature Foundation (NNF) joined forces into the Namibia African Wild Dog Project to study the persecuted wild dogs of the Greater Mangetti Complex in north eastern Namibia.
This project is desperately needed, because nobody really knows how many wild dogs Namibia has and where they are and without such vital information we cannot implement the Namibian National Conservation Plan for this specially protected species.

pack daynawdp waterhole

What we Have Discovered So Far:
We have used Trail Cameras to monitor waterholes in the area for wild dog activity and, so far, have found five separate packs which move in the 200,000 hectares area. The dogs move between a para-statal cattle ranch, private game and cattle farms, communal land and the newly proclaimed Mangetti National Park.
These are very dangerous areas to be a wild dog, because there is very little game on this land, and an increasing number of cattle. This invariably means that the wild dogs are more likely to catch cattle, which pitches them into direct conflict with people . . .

Local cattle guards found two wild dog dens, which we were then able to monitor using camera traps. An encouraging number of pups survived the first 4 months of denning this year. They have now left their dens, and will not den again until the middle of next year.
The next phase of the project will be to collar one wild dog in each pack with a satellite collar. This will allow us to monitor their movements, how far they travel ,what territories each pack occupies, and the conflicts in which they become involved.

 

We plan to start this phase over the denning season next year (2015).

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Last Updated on Monday, 08 December 2014 00:39

Hits: 4537

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