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Season Report 2017

leopardleopard

SEASON REPORT 2017 - 1 DECEMBER 2016 - 30 NOVEMBER 2017

Leopards

leopard chart

Lila
The most sighted leopard in 2017 was Lila with 137 sightings. In the beginning of this year, Lila gave birth to her first litter. Leopards usually give birth to one or two cubs per litter, very rarely to three cubs. When Lila showed her cubs for the first time, we were delighted to see that she was accompanied by three little ones. Sadly two of her cubs disappeared within the next two months, most likely due to infanticide. Lila and her remaining third cub provided special sightings and we were hoping that she’d be able to protect it from all the danger and challenges of the wild. Unfortunately the love of a mother is not always enough: The little cub was found dead in September 2017. We unfortunately can’t confirm under what circumstances the little cub died, but strongly believe that it fell victim to an infanticidal male leopard. Due to malfunctioning of her collar, Lila was re-collared in October 2017 and was found to be in excellent condition.

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Isaskia
After losing her last four litters due to inter- and intraspecific competition, Isaskia gave birth again to another litter in March this year. Until now she managed to raise two beautiful male cubs that are providing wonderful sightings to our research team as well as all Okonjima guests alike. Together with her cubs she was sighted 136 times within this year. She is proving to be a wonderful mother as the two boys seem to be in the best physical condition. Dominance hierarchies are already showing among the two young males as one of the boys is bullying his brother in a playful manner from time to time.
For a long time Isaskia’s collar was not working and AfriCat’s research team was desperately trying to fit her with a new, functioning one. Because Isaskia successfully avoided all capture box traps, the team managed to free dart her in June 2017. Ever since Isaskia and her two male cubs are regularly sighted allowing us to monitor and study the mother-offspring dynamics and the development of her two young cubs closely.

leopard isaskia june2017leopard isaskia 2017

JoJo
JoJo is still accompanied by both of her cubs she gave birth to in July 2016. Because JoJo was only observed with one cub for a couple of weeks and her female cub wasn’t seen for a few months, we suspected that she didn’t make it. Fortunately, a recent sighting of the young female proved us wrong and showed us that she already is spending quite some time apart from mum.
JoJo still inhabits her territory in the western part of the reserve where she appears to be the only resident female. Nevertheless, during the last few months several encounters between JoJo and Lila, whose range is mainly concentrated in the central part of the reserve, have been observed suggesting that Lila is extending her ranges more towards the west. With 119 sightings, JoJo was one of the most seen leopard during the past year.

leopard jojo june2017 leopard jojo june2017

Electra
Electra’s home range is still located in the Eastern and South-eastern part of the reserve where she seems to be the dominant female. As those ranges are characterized by a dominant mountain range, she often disappears and hides in them for a couple of days. As observed in the past, Electra regularly retreats into the mountain ranges for an extended period of time if she is preparing to give birth to a new set of cubs.
When she was hiding for a few weeks in the mountains in July this year, we had reason to believe she had given birth to a new litter. And in fact, in August 2017 Electra presented her newly born male cub for the very first time. This is her 4th litter. Sadly, none of her previous offspring survived until adulthood, with Nandi – her female cub from her 3rd litter – being the only exception; unfortunately she was killed by another leopard in the beginning of this year.
Together with her cub, Electra provided 112 wonderful sightings to Okonjima guides and guests alike. Electra’s cub is now about six months old. Electra is often seen with Mawenzi, the resident male leopard in the area, suggesting that he is the sire of her offspring. We are crossing our fingers that this little one will survive the many dangers of the wild and will grow into a strong and beautiful male leopard.

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Mawenzi
Mawenzi was collared in April 2017 and being 78 kilogram currently the largest collared male in the Okonjima Nature Reserve. He was named after one of the volcanic cones of Mount Kilimanjaro. Prior to his collaring, Mawenzi was regularly observed on our remotely-triggered wildlife camera traps which enabled us to thoroughly follow his change of range from the Western part of the reserve to the Central-eastern part and ultimately establishing a territory in the South-east of the reserve where he was observed 71 times  since his collaring.
Mawenzi is often seen with Electra and her young cub suggesting that he is the sire of her cub. During the last few months, Mawenzi has been in an on and off territorial clash with Kibo. As a result, Mawenzi suffered some serious injuries affecting his left and right eye. Even though the extent of the injuries were quite severe and he needed to be immobilized twice for treatment purposes, his eye sight doesn’t seem to be affected and made a full recovery up to date, only bearing a few scars.

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Ishara
Ishara is still the only known female inhabiting Okonjima’s southern areas. Occasionally she is moving over the mountain range into the central part of the reserve, but most of the time remains in her southern district. Just like Isaskia, Ishara’s collar also malfunctioned some time ago and needed urgent replacement. In October 2017, AfriCats’ research team was able to capture Ishara in a box trap and fit her with a functional VHF-radio collar that is now allowing us to regularly follow her movements again. Because of her malfunctioned collar, Ishara was only spotted 57 times in 2017.
While Ishara was spotted with two cubs during the middle of the year, recent camera trap footage only reveals the presence of one remaining female cub. As Ishara is occasionally spotted with Kaluah on camera traps – a collared male who is only very rarely seen, we suspect that he is the sire of her cub.

leopard ishara 2017leopard ishara 2017

Jagu
Jagu is a 5 - 6 year old male leopard who was first collared in September 2015. Because he is rather cautious around cars, sightings of him are comparably rare and he was only seen 26 times throughout the year. We found that he is more relaxed around vehicles when he is on a kill. His home range is mainly located in the central part of the reserve. In November 2017 he was re-collared due to malfunctioning of his previous collar. With a weight of 67 kilogram, he is not one of the bigger males in the reserve, but therefore impresses with his unique rosette pattern. Jagu received his name due to his large dark rosettes, almost resembling those of a Jaguar.

leopard jagu 2017leopard jagu 2017

Sefu, Neo, Shira & Nuka
Sefu, Neo and Shira were newly collared in 2017. All three were regularly captured on camera traps during the 2015/2016 leopard density study. Their territories are covering the northern parts of the reserve; Sefu in particular is inhabiting a huge range extending from the far north-western corner up to the central eastern part of the reserve, which often makes it difficult to locate him despite his collar. Sefu is approximately eight years of age and has been monitored by our research team for the last four years.
Since then he successfully avoided every capture box traps. That is why AfriCat’s research team couldn’t believe their eyes, when Sefu finally entered one of the box traps on 13 August 2017. He was in excellent condition and weighed in at 73 kilogram.
Shira is named after one of the volcanic cones of Mount Kilimanjaro. Shira was first spotted back in 2011 and became a frequent visitor of our remote camera traps during the AfriCat / Okonjima Leopard Density Study in 2015/2016. She is mainly moving in the north-eastern areas of the reserve, but occasionally extends her ranges further south.
In March 2017, Shira was fitted with a VHF-radio collar. Even though Shira is still quite skittish and often disappears into thick bush, her two sub-adult male cubs are the complete opposite. The two young males have recently left their mother and are now in search of a territory themselves. With approximately 18 months of age they are still too young to be collared; but even with no collar they are regularly seen by our research team. Once old enough, we are hoping to fit both cubs with a radio collar in order to study and monitor their behavior and future movements in an island-bound conservation area.
Neo was collared in August 2017. He is still a young male of approximately 3 – 4 years of age. Just like Shira, he was also regularly witnessed on our camera traps that are distributed throughout the reserve. Despite his collaring, Neo is rather rarely seen and often hides in dense bush.
Nuka was re-collared in May 2017. Weighing nearly 72 kilograms, he is one of the biggest males in the reserve. Even though he has been fitted with a radio collar for almost 2 years, Nuka is very elusive and only rarely seen as he usually disappears into thick bush when in the presence of vehicles.

leopard sefu 2017 

Cheetahs

Aeroplanes
The Aeroplane coalition - including the three males Sniper, Spitfire and Quattro and their sister Hurricane - was released from the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre into the 20 000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve in the beginning of December 2016.
From the beginning they stuck together as a group and after two weeks started to make the odd kill. As with every newly released cheetah, we still needed to supplement them with food in order to keep their energy levels up, but they kept on moving and exploring the reserve, finding water and kept on hunting. Even though they were not always successful, the instinct was there.
Sadly, on the 22nd of January Hurricane got killed by a leopard. Due to the high presence of leopards in the reserve, a high number of cheetahs released into the park are killed due to interspecific competition. Vigilance and the avoidance of higher-order predators like leopards and hyenas is one of the most important tools that rehabilitated cheetahs need to hone to be successful in the wild.
After Hurriance’s death, the three males stayed together and were mainly roaming the open plains in the western and central part of the reserve. They were found on a kill at least every two weeks.
Four months after Hurricane’s death, Quattro, sadly, was also killed by a leopard on the 17th of May. Even though their hunting success was irregular, the trio made the odd kill to sustain themselves. After Quattro’s death though, Sniper and Spitfire stopped hunting completely. It was usually Quattro who was leading their hunting missions; with him gone Sniper and Spitfire appeared to be quite helpless when it came to hunting.
On the 27th of June both were darted within the frame of our annual health checks. Blood and urine samples were collected and haematology and serum biochemistry profiles were performed. Both were vaccinated against rabies and other infectious diseases. Additionally ultrasound examinations and gastric biopsies were performed and their teeth checked for dental abnormalities. Sniper and Spitfire were both found to be in good health were released back into the reserve the next day.
In July the duo eventually started to successfully hunt again. After a short excursion into the South for three weeks, Sniper and Spitfire returned into the open plains in the west where they are still presently. With the upcoming rainy season, a lot ungulates are dropping their offspring. With the increase of impala lambs, the hunting success rate of the cheetahs also increased proportionally. At the moment, Sniper and Spitfire are found very regular on a kill and require a minimum of additional food support. They were sighted 269 times during the 2017 Okonjima season.

cheetahs aeroplanes 2017cheetahs aeroplanes 2017

The Masters
Dash, Ruff and Tumble first came to AfriCat in 2008 at one month of age where they lived the following four year at AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Center. In 2012 the sibling trio was released into Okonjima’s 20 000 ha nature reserve together with their coalition mates Dizzy and Baxter. Their rehabilitation process seemed promising in the beginning as they started to hunt almost immediately after their release. After Baxter was killed not long after the release and Dizzy decided to lead a solitary life, the remaining trio only had sporadic hunting success and eventually became sedentary along the eastern boundary fence where game is sparse. After six months of limited movement and minimal hunting success, the decision was made to take Dash, Ruff and Tumble back to AfriCat’s Care Center in December 2012 where they would act as educational ambassadors for their wild counter parts.
In May 2017 Dash, Ruff and Tumble received their third chance to make it in the wild. We decided to give them another chance due to the fact that they always remained quite wild despite their daily contact with people and secondly because we want to reduce the number of cheetahs in captivity as far as possible during the next years. With quite an advanced age of nine years and their many years in captivity, we obviously were concerned if they still had what it takes to become successful in the wild. Three days after their release, the trio split up and moved off into different directions. While Ruff and Tumble reunited after two days, Dash had moved into the westerly areas of the reserve.
In September Tumble’s condition deteriorated rapidly: severe weight loss, depression, limited movement, lesser than normal fluid and food intake. Due to his weak state he was brought back to AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Center where the team tried to rehydrate him and offered supportive treatment. As there were no visible signs of improvement, we decided with a heavy heart to end Tumble’s severe suffering and to put him to sleep humanely and painlessly.
Post mortem results confirmed renal failure affecting the liver and the gastro-intestinal tract causing blood loss through vomiting and diarrhea as well as early signs of icterus.
After Tumble’s death, Dash reunited with her brother Ruff. Together they were found on regular kills with Dash being the main hunter of the duo.
During the health checks in June this year, it was found that due to their advanced age, all of their teeth were not in the best condition anymore. Additionally Ruff lost one of his upper canines in August in an unknown way. During the last few weeks and despite regular hunting success and additional feeding by the AfriCat team, Ruff lost more and more weight and his condition deteriorated quickly. By the end of November, Ruff was immobilized in order to thoroughly check his health status again. Thereby it was found that Ruff only had five remaining teeth including two broken lower canines and three premolars which prevented him from proper chewing. Furthermore his fur and eyes appeared dull, his mucous membranes were dark and he showed a mild irregular heartbeat. Based on his very poor body condition and due to the absence of a functional chewing mechanism, we decided to end his suffering and put Ruff to sleep. Post mortem analysis revealed beginning stages of liver and kidney failure as well as corneal oedemas of both eyes.
We are glad that both, Ruff and Tumble spent their last months not in captivity but in the wild where they belonged. Dash is remains on her own in the reserve and we are hoping that she will cope without the support of her brothers in the wild.
Since their release in May, the Masters were observed 227 times.

 

Saltpans
Swakop and Mundi were released into the Okonjima Nature Reserve in May 2017 and since then were sighted 86 times. After their release they started to move off into opposite directions immediately. While Swakop headed straight towards the fence line, his sister moved into the western part of the reserve where she kept on moving constantly. Despite a single excursion into the central parts of the reserve, Swakop remained close to the fence. Mundi on the other hand explored unfamiliar cheetah territory and ended up on top of the Southern mountain range. Several attempt to lure her down again were unsuccessful and so, Mundi needed to be immobilized and was released close to her brother - hoping she would encourage him to leave the fence. Unfortunately, not everything always goes according to plan, even so Swakop and Mundi were united again, both cheetahs have now made themselves a home in the eastern corner of the reserve.
After spending the last couple of weeks in the same spot and to avoid unnecessary immobilization, Team AfriCat tried and lured Swakop and Mundi on a cool morning a couple of kilometers away from the fence into the reserve; close to a water-filled dam with lots of potential prey around. Even though both cheetahs had the occasional kill, their hunting success stagnated and both were highly dependent on food and water supply. Unfortunately, their move only remained temporary and the siblings were back in their familiar corner only a few days later.
Even though Swakop and Mundi had the best conditions for a successful rehabilitation process (young age, limited time in captivity and they never got too comfortable around people), our two desert cheetahs seemed to struggle to find their place in the wild.
Interestingly, many of AfriCat’s rehabilitated cheetahs ended up at exactly the same corner. Having spent the majority of their lives in captivity, the fence seems to be familiar and safe territory which might be a possible explanation why so many of the former captive cats sooner or later end up there. The question remains why some cheetahs start to roam immediately broad areas of the reserve, stay mobile and never remain for too long at the same place while others - once they hit the fenceline -become sedentary? Not only is game sparse, a fenceline also restricts the directions in which a cheetah can flee in case of an attack by a higher-order predator like leopard or hyena.
Finally in the beginning of November, Swakop and Mundi decided to leave the eastern fenceline and slowly started to move west into open plains. Out of the blue they started hunting and were frequently rewarded with a successful kill. During the last four weeks, Swakop and Mundi were more often observed on a kill than during the last seven months since their release. Until now, they haven’t returned to the fenceline and we are hoping that they will continue roaming through the reserve and hopefully become completely self-sustaining.

cheetahs saltpans 2017cheetahs saltpans 2017

HYENAS

hyena chart

hyaena 2017

 

In 2017, Pooh was sighted 40 times.
His range is extending over most of Okonjima’s 200 km2.
In November, Pooh was immobilized. He is still in excellent condition and weighed in at exactly 80.0 kilogrammes.

Paddington is not fitted with a VHF-collar and thus, was only spotted twice during the year of 2017.

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 December 2017 12:30

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The control of cheetah fly on captive carnivores

flies on cheetahsflies on cheetahs

All captive carnivores at our Carnivore Care Centre were burdened with the Cheetah fly (Hippoboscus longipennis), which resulted in a drop in condition and erratic/aggressive behavior and required urgent investigation into long-term control of the problem.

After looking at the flies’ life cycle, different options were considered to reduce the numbers, taking practicalities into consideration. The two options adopted were removing grass in holding camps, to interfere with the life cycle of the fly, and administering medication topically or orally. As there are no wild cat species-specific registered medicines available in Namibia, three commercial products (with varying treatment intervals) for the use in domesticated cats and dogs were used. Strict precautions were taken to ensure the well-being of the cats when using the medication.

Preset markers were used, starting with the initial evaluation as the base line, to measure efficacy of each of the chosen commercial products. Evaluation markers also included visual monitoring of fly numbers on the cats, observation of behavior towards members of their social group and familiar humans, coat quality, body weight and level of disturbance by flies when the cats fed. Observations of each cat were made every four weeks, starting in November 2015.

The cats were nearly fly-free four weeks after the start of treatment, but more important were:

  • A change from aggressive/stressed facial and body posture to body language comparable to cats held on free range land.
  • A change in feeding behaviour from agitated interrupted feeding and aggression towards their counterparts, to using relaxed bite and chew motions.
  • Their coats became shiny, elastic, full of luster and, over a 3-month period, they showed weight gain.

The cats’ daily routine stayed the same and no side effects at all were noticed on any of the treated cats.

Although cheetahs and leopards were fly-free while being in the feed-run, the AfriCat in-house veterinarian was concerned that the fly was still visible in the environment. However, as they were not present on the cats it was safe to assume that the applied medication was still effective.

For the past fourteen months there has been no use of medication to control the fly numbers. Constant monitoring is essential. With occasional immobilization of park cats, the presence of the fly in its natural environment has been confirmed, thus proving that, in the feed runs, the control measures are effective.

flies on cheetahsflies on cheetahs

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 August 2017 05:06

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The Three Phases of AfriCat’s Carnivore Care & Information Centre

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AfriCat’s Carnivore Care & Information Centre - IN MEMORY OF THE LATE JIM MALTMAN:

http://www.africat.org/support/donate/legacy/obituary-jim-maltman

Clinic and AfriCat HQ Office pre 2011:

africat clinic and hq pre 2011 africat clinic and hq pre 2011africat clinic and hq pre 2011

The AfriCat Carnivore Care Information Centre and Veterinary Clinic Today:

africat clinic and hq post 2011 africat clinic and hq post 2011africat clinic and hq post 2011

We’ve come a long way since afternoon tea with 'Chinga' on the lawn!

From cheetah, lion and leopard rescue, care and release - TO rescue, rehabilitation, community support and research! From farmer support - TO 'Conservation Through Education'!

We are committed to encouraging our youth and communities to ensure the survival of large carnivores, within a balanced ecosystem.

Here at AfriCat, over the past two decades, the Rescue and Release Programme developed as a result of our relationship with the farming community. The 'Welfare and Carnivore Care Centre', in turn, was a by-product of the Rescue and Release Programme.

 

PHASE 1:

We currently hold cheetah in our care that are young, fit and wild enough to be part of our Rehabilitation Project. There are, however a few cheetah, leopard and lion too old or tame to go back into the wild. These individuals will live out their lives under the expert care of the AfriCat team and continue to be "ambassadors" for their wild counter-parts at AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre.

However, 2011 was the dawn of a different direction for AfriCat and with that a renewed focus on our Environmental Education Programmes and the completion of the AfriCat HQ Carnivore Care and Information Centre as well as construction of the new AfriCat North base!
It started with a much needed office in 2011; to make room for an information/display area, then the upgrade of all the carnivore enclosures in 2012 and the new AfriCat North base – west of Etosha National Park (ENP); the completion of the AfriCat veterinary clinic in 2013, with its examination/procedure room, storage, and laboratory facilities, which provides an excellent veterinary facility and working environment for carnivore health; and now the final phase accomplished end 2016, which includes a second information-display room and presentation facility!
We can now offer visitors a valuable insight into the 'work' of The AfriCat Foundation.

pahse1 new office added
2011 New office added to the old block
pahse1 new africat team members
New team members joined us - Selma Amadhila and Jenny Noack
pahse1 new africat info area in the making
2011 New Information area in the making
pahse1 new africat info area in action
2011 New Information area in action
pahse1 old office africat display area
The old office was moved out and the room became the first display area
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AfriCat's main programme is now Environmental Education
pahse1 africats main programme ee
AfriCat's main programme is now Environmental Education
pahse1 cramped clinic
Cramped clinic with no space between scholars, students and vets
pahse1 cramped clinic
Cramped clinic with no space between scholars, students and vets
phase1 adopt a spot
The adopt a spot wall was added for some fun with our visiting children
pahse1 adopt a spot
The adopt a spot wall was added for some fun with our visiting children
pahse1 adopt a spot
The adopt a spot wall was added for some fun with our visiting children
pahse1 adopt a spot
The adopt a spot wall was added for some fun with our visiting children
phase1 africat north ee
AfriCat North - Environmental Education
phase1 africat north kraal
AfriCat North community support stock kraal building
phase1 africat north community support
AfriCat North community support in full swing
phase1 africat north lion guardians
AfriCat North lion guardians got cracking
phase1 africat north base was set up
The AfriCat North base was set up west of Etosha National Park

PHASE 2:

WE ARE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL FOR JIM MALTMAN’S THOUGHTFULNESS, AS WELL AS ALL OUR UK SUPPORTERS WHO HAVE DONATED TOWARDS THE AFRICAT INFORMATION & CARNIVORE CARE CENTRE!

REALISING THE IMPORTANCE OF AFRICAT’S PROJECTS, SPONSORSHIP IS WHAT KEEPS THIS FOUNDATION ALIVE, AND SUPPORT ON AN 'ONGOING BASIS' – IS WHAT IS CONSIDERED BY MANY TO BE THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF HELPING A FOUNDATION ACHIEVE GOOD WORK.

phase2 new veterinary clinic being built
AfriCat's new veterinary clinic being built
phase2 vet clinic improved
AfriCat's new veterinary clinic is a major improvement to our Care Centre
phase2 vet clinic improved
AfriCat's new veterinary clinic is a major improvement to our Care Centre and enough space for our education programme to benefit from
phase2 vet clinic improved
AfriCat's new veterinary clinic is a major improvement to our Care Centre
phase2 africats vet helping all wildlife
AfriCat's new veterinary helping all wildlife
phase2 africat clinic wall
AfriCat's Clinic wall was turned into a WEB of environmental information for the EE Programme

AfriCat's Clinic wall was turned into a WEB of environmental information for the EE Programme:

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We have also added 2 more hides so that the Carnivore Ambassadors can be studied and admired from a safe distance by our visiting scholars.

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PHASE 3:

AfriCat's Information Centre Phase 3:

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WHY we do what we do?

STOCK FARMERS:
Habitat loss is one of the largest threats to the cheetah, lion and leopard populations in Namibia. Livestock (communal and commercial) and game farms in Namibia number over 7000 and spread over most of the country - the same areas where the majority of these carnivores exist. The resulting conflict between these predators and farmers protecting their livelihood reduces the natural habitat areas where the animals can safely exist.

GAME FARMERS: 
With a shift in focus from cattle farming to a livelihood dependent on game for tourism and/or hunting, there has been an increasing trend where the predation of game has become the motivation behind the elimination of cheetahs and leopards. The perceived "problem animals" who in the past were removed for preying on livestock, are now also being captured for hunting one of their natural prey species.

General predator removal is often the "livestock-protection method" utilised by farmers who view all predators as "problem animals" and cheetahs, lions, hyaenas, jackals, caracal lynx and leopards are trapped, poisoned or shot on sight. In most cases an individual animal is responsible for stock losses and not the species in general and this indiscriminate removal leads to the unnecessary elimination of many innocent animals.

During the 1980’s and 90’s between 600 -1000 cheetahs were destroyed on an annual basis by farmers and hunters, today that number apparently has been reduced to a reported 200 - 300 per year, but not enough research has been conducted to give reliable statistics – the number could be higher?!

The three pillars of conservation, namely ministry, private sector and non-government organisations (NGO’S), such as The AfriCat Foundation, have joined forces to work together, to increase awareness of the plight of the cheetah, lion, leopard and other carnivores and to find solutions to the conflicting interests of farmer and predator. Research into cheetah and other carnivore numbers, distribution and behaviour, runs parallel with wildlife education for our youth and workshops for newly emerging farmers on how to coexist with their wild heritage.

OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVES 
Okonjima, Herero for "place of the baboon", is an extensive tract of land nestling amongst the Omboroko Mountains some fifty kilometers south of the small town of Otjiwarongo.

Historically, the surrounding land would have been home to some of Africa’s finest wildlife, today it is farmland. For the last 46 years Okonjima has been in the hands of the Hanssen family. Today, nearly 25 years after Wayne, Donna & Rosalea Hanssen took over a cattle farm from their father, the original farm has grown in size to 22 000 hectares, the cattle have gone, grasslands are returning and the wildlife abounds.

Also aware of the increasing lion and spotted hyaena conflict along the southern ENP boundary, and witnessing livestock farmers, suffering high losses, the AfriCat North project was established in 1989, with a mission to finding workable solutions to the lion-farmer conflict.

The key to the Okonjima experience is The AfriCat Foundation, a non- profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores. With the cheetah, leopard and lion as its flagship, the foundation works alongside the farming community, attempting to help alleviate the livestock losses caused by predators.

To observe these magnificent animals in natural surroundings and to witness the rehabilitation efforts to return them to the wild, provides the visitor with the chance to come to know a little more about the story of Africa, its harmonies and its conflicts. The wheel turns full circle as the traveller leaves Okonjima with the knowledge that through his/her visit, he/she has laid yet another stone in the road to recovery for Africa’s carnivores.

The corner stone to success of conservation rests on that old adage "If it pays, it stays". Today in Namibia, a significant amount of the money which visitors spend during their time in the country, finds its way back into the programmes which aid in the conservation of the animals living there. Not only are his loss-costs covered, but also there are opportunities for his wife and children to be employed, and when the lodge makes a profit, he/she preferably receives a dividend either as a cash hand-out or as a new school or health clinic. This is hopefully the Namibia of today.

phase3 2017 clinic in action
The Clinic in action
phase3 2017 clinic in action
The Clinic in action
phase3 2017 clinic in action
The Clinic in action
phase3 2017 africat information centre
Phase 3 2017 - The final touches
phase3 2017 africat information centre
Phase 3 2017 - The final touches
phase3 2017 africat information centre
Phase 3 2017 - The final touches
phase3 2017 africat information centre
Phase 3 2017 - The final touches
phase3 2017 africat information centre
Phase 3 2017 - The final touches
africat sponsors make all the difference
Sponsors make all the difference
africat sponsors make all the difference
africat sponsors make all the difference
Sponsors make all the difference - In honour of those that will never be forgotten.
africat sponsors make all the difference
Sponsors make all the difference - The late Jimmy Maltman

Last Updated on Friday, 08 September 2017 06:22

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AfriCat Annual Health Checks - 2017

health check 2017 team africathealth check 2017 africat

This year the AfriCat Annual Health Check took place between 26 and 30 June, 2017. It was coordinated by Dr Adrian Tordiffe, Dr Gerhard Steenkamp and Dr Diethardt Rodenwoldt. They were assisted by Dr Roxanne Buck and Dr Gareth Zeiler, who were responsible for anaesthesia, and Dr Maria Geremek and student veterinarian Katarzyna Kolodziejczyk from Poland. A recently qualified vet, Dr Joel Alves, from Onderstepoort, University of Pretoria, who is currently working towards his Masters, also joined us from South Africa.

dr adrian tordifferedr diethardt rodenwoldtdr gerhard steenkamp

We were very happy to be assisted by two groups of volunteers from the United States 'Ultimate Safaris volunteers' and from the United Kingdom 'Steppes Travel volunteers'. The volunteers pay a fare fee to be part of the experience of the Annual Health Check.

health check volunteers steepeshealth check volunteers

During the health check, 29 captive carnivores (23 cheetahs, 4 leopards and 2 lions) were immobilized and examined and to collect samples for a registered research project - The long-term health monitoring and immune-competence of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and other felids at AfriCat in Namibia.

All the animals were weighed. Blood and urine samples were collected and haematology and serum biochemistry profiles were performed for each animal. They were vaccinated against the feline calici virus, feline pan-leucopoenia virus, feline herpes virus and feline rhinotracheitis. They were also vaccinated against rabies. Three cheetahs were treated for internal parasites. All animals were found to be free of external parasites. The two lions (Shenzi and Shavula) were tested for FeLV and FIV and were found to be negative for both viruses.

Shenzi the lion africat health checkshenzi fiv testsshavulas fiv tests

Abdominal ultrasound examinations were performed on all the anaesthetized cheetahs and one leopard. Gastric biopsies were collected from 18 of the cheetahs using a flexible endoscope to assess the extent of gastritis in the captive population. The animals were checked by Dr. Gerhard Steenkamp for dental abnormalities and root canal treatments and/or extractions were performed in the few instances indicated.

In general, the animals were found to be in good health, taking into consideration the advanced age of a few of the cheetahs.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 August 2017 15:26

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Okonjima Lodge Game Count Information Summary Report: Game Count 11-13 October 2016

wildebeestkudu

Some 38 years or longer ago conservationists already had a clear vision with the practicalities that can be encountered with Park Management and saw the necessity to perform game counts.

In "Counting Animals" Norton-Griffith emphasizes:
No form of wildlife management, whether it is the establishment of cropping or hunting quotas, the development of tourism or the demarcation of boundaries is possible without reliable information on the numbers, population dynamics and movements of the animals concerned. This account deals with many of the practical problems that are met with when designing and carrying out a wildlife census. (1)

 

To get reliable counting figures either for the total number of game in a park or for each species, is of paramount importance. These figures will influence future wildlife and park management plans and strategies.

Different types of counting systems can and are used. Bothma and du Toit claim in "Game Ranch Management" that all systems have strong but also weak points:
"There is no single comprehensive counting technique that is suitable for all the possible types of animals and their habitus. Factors like costs, area size, animals to be counted, type of habitat, available manpower, timing during the year could influence final results." (2)

 

Various census techniques are described - all varying tremendously in accuracy, time effort, manpower and expenses. Size and habitat structure of the census unit are decisive for the correct choice of method. Besides road strip counts from vehicles and walked transects, aerial surveys and water hole counts present the most common and practical techniques within the Namibian environment.

For remote and large areas as found in Namibia, the only feasible and practical method is quite often an aerial survey carried out by a helicopter or another light aircraft. It is a reliable method to estimate numbers of mainly large bodied mammals that can be easily perceived from the air and allows covering a large area in a short period of time. It is however less suitable for the estimation of small antelope species and predators due to size, camouflage and potential nocturnal activity. Often aerial surveys fail to provide accurate data on population demography such as age classes and sex ratios unless the target species exhibits sexual dimorphism in the presence or absence of horns that can be easily viewed from the air.

While a water hole conducted census is able to make this information accessible, other disadvantages arise: A water hole game count can exclusively be conducted during a certain time of the year namely when no additional water reservoirs are available and animals are forced to gather around artificially provided water-points. Water hole counts are time and labor intense, require numerous dedicated and skilled staff in order to prevent the same (herd of) animal(s) to be counted more than once or missed ("over- and/or undercount" principle). Volunteers are always of great help, but sometimes lack the basic experience that is essentially needed and often suffer from fatigue and exhaustion as game counts last normally for a continuous 72 hours period.

Our chosen method was an aerial survey with a 'Total Area Count', using a GPS incorporated navigation system to come close to an 'all-covered park area flight path', with the most likelihood of getting close to an accurate total number of species count.

Timing of a census if of utmost importance. Because aerial surveys provide the best possible results if carried out during the dry season when animals can be easily seen and are not hidden beneath a layer of green leaves, we chose the month of October with a presently poor leaf coverage (hope and confident that with rain this will change).
To get to the exact count figure is extremely difficult. Multiple factors can influence that figure as for example time of the day. It would be ideal to know the exact number, but a reliable figure - even if not absolutely correct - is more important and of use to follow historic, present and potential future trends. Thus a "repeatable precise count with a same result for the same number of animals" (carries more weight even though that count may be inaccurate due to over- or underestimation of the true numbers and that is with-in limits). (2)

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The main object of this year’s game count of the different species and in total was:
1. To follow trend numbers in population size
2. To determine population dynamics
3. To evaluate sex ratios for management purposes
4. To evaluate food biomass availability of different species in a closed system

As this year’s census was the second one with-in the perimeters of the Okonjima Nature Reserve (ONR), performed in a different way compared to the first one done in 2014, comparison of figures should be taken up in a very cautious manner.
The count in 2014 was performed with the aid of a Gyrocopter, flying at a faster speed and at a higher altitude than this year’s count with a helicopter.
This year’s counting span width started at 200 meters to soon be reduced to 150 meters on each side of the counter for better accuracy and accountability.

 

The Okonjima Nature Reserve was divided into five sections due to various practical factors taken in consideration like ensuring flight continuity, minimize counter fatigue, minimize game crossing in-between flight paths within and between blocks, reducing the flight time resulting in flight costs reduction and the time factor, as this count could not be completed within a day.

The circles indicate an accumulation of one or more species in that specific area, where it was not possible to have an immediate count figure ready on the straight flight line, thus the helicopter had to circle that specific spot to ensure an accurate spot number.

The circles in Fig.1 show distinctly the preferred accumulation areas of one or more game species in that area / spot at any given time depending on the availability of fodder. A strong accumulation of game species in certain areas can result in overgrazing; in particular around permanent water sources. By closing chosen water points, migration into less populated / popular areas containing usable biomass (fodder) can be motivated and thus, the rate of overgrazing decreased. This goes hand in hand with drought, park management and future park strategy planning to ensure food availability and continuity of genetic diversity of the different species.

 

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Figure 1: Five subdivisions of the reserve indicated in different colors, flight path, visual area coverage and game concentration.

 

Areas absent of circles indicate either very thick bush, mountains terrain with only few individuals of different species seen. The mountain areas with their slopes indicating not only their value as grazing areas (if accessible), but are also a very very valuable and sustainable seed bank supply source to the surrounding grazing areas.

 

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Figure 2: Numbers of game species introduced in 2000 in comparison to game count numbers obtained during game count 2016 and increase in percent [%]

 

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Figure 3: Share of different game species occurring in Okonjima Nature Reserve (ONR) as obtained during the game count 2016.

One of many very valuable positive observation trends, was the increase of the introduced species numbers into the Reserve in 2000 (Fig. 2). All these species were either low in numbers or absent from that area, but historically were present on the ONR area. It is our intention to redo a follow-up aerial game census in one years’ time incorporating and using the same technique and methodology, possibly using two helicopters to complete the count in only one day.

 

Literature Reference:
1. Norton-Griffiths, Mike. Counting animals. No. 1. Serengeti Ecological Monitoring Programme, African Wildlife Leadership Foundation, 1978.
2. du P, Bothma J., and J. G. du Toit. 'Game ranch management." Pretoria, South Africa: Van Schaik (2010).

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 January 2017 13:17

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