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Season Report 2017




leopard chart

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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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.

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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’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 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 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.

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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.

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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 


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.

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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.


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.

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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.


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