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The Siblings - Coco, her brother Spud and their leader Bones

cheetahs coco bonescheetahs coco bones 

Through the whole of 2013, the 'Siblings' were doing very well. Coco, Bones and Spud were released into 200km² Okonjima Nature Reserve on the 18th of May 2010. Seen on kills every 3–4 days, staying away from danger - although their kills as a coalition include adult zebra, kudu, gnu and oryx! They stick to their territory in the southern part of the Nature Reserve close the Villa and up on the valley, close to Plains Camp, since their last leader, Hammer, was killed in the northern section of the reserve end November 2011, they have never returned to that area again. As always, following this trio, gives our Okonjima guests, scholars from across the country and Team AfriCat wonderful memories while tracking them on foot. They were seen 98 times between January and June (Okonjima’s lower season) this year and 236 times between July and November. 

 

Their success continued into 2014, but only until 20 January, when a call came through from one of our guides, Jonas Mathias that Spud, one of the males, was limping badly on his front left leg. Team AfriCat went to investigate and found that the leg was broken at the elbow, probably from a kick during a hunt. Spud was darted and stayed overnight at AfriCat and was then taken to Windhoek the next morning for X-rays by Dr. Ulf Tubbesing, the same vet who treated our wild dog, Raine’s leg.

The X-rays showed a clean break but also that the elbow joint had been dislocated, which made things complicated. Dr. Tubbesing informed us that it was going to be a long procedure and the healing would take a long time seeing that Spud was eight years old. We gave the go ahead to give Spud a chance, seeing that he was such a successful cheetah and that we had such confidence in Dr Tubbesing by now. He was not joking. The operation took three hours with two pins and a plate needed to get the elbow joint back into place. X-rays after the operation showed that it had been a huge success. He was brought back to Okonjima and placed into a small holding camp bordering the reserve about 6 km from the AfriCat Care Centre.

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We could see that he was in a lot of pain and not putting any pressure on the leg for at least the first three weeks, but his two siblings, Coco and Bones, came to visit him every now then, showing us just how strong their bond was.

He started putting more and more pressure on the leg and on 11 March it was time for his first X-rays after the operation. Everything looked good, but as Dr. Tubbesing had said, the healing process was slow. For the next two months things improved. He was still limping badly on the leg but it seemed as though he was in less pain and moving around freely.

On 19 May it was time for another trip to Windhoek. This time the X-rays showed good healing but it was still going to be a couple of months before we could release him. Dr Tubbesing suggested that we put him in a bigger camp so that he could exercise the leg more. He was then put into Alcatraz, our 5 ha enclosure inside the Okonjima Nature Reserve. Coco and Bones who were still doing fine without Spud, came to visit him at least every 10 days.

Then on 16 June it was time for his last X-rays which meant another trip to Windhoek for poor Spud. This time Dr Tubbesing was very happy with the result. We also noticed a very strange thing on the X-rays – one of the pins was missing. Dr. Tubbesing explained that a pin can migrate out of the bone to the muscles due to movement of the joint. Once in the muscle area, the body sees it as a 'foreign object' and, as it would with a thorn or any other foreign object, it pushes it out of the body. It is seen quite often by vets – interesting!

Spud was given another 3–4 weeks before he could be released into the reserve again. We decided to wait for Coco and Bones to come and visit him again to release him, instead of darting him to take him to wherever they were. And it was if they knew. Three weeks later on 7 July, almost seven months after the injury, it was time for Spud to be free again Coco – and Bones were outside his enclosure waiting. We lured him out with a big piece of meat so that they could all eat together and of course there were some lucky Okonjima guests to witness the big reunion. They were very happy to be re-united and munched away on the piece of meat like in the old times.

Two days after his release, Spud was seen joining the other two, chasing impalas on the open plains. It was a wonderful moment to see him run free again. He still has a bit of a limp, but the three siblings are happy to be together again and so are we.

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COCO and SPUD
GENDER: COCO – Female | SPUD - Male
AGE: (2014) 8 years
ORIGIN: Otjiwarongo
SIBLINGS / RELATIONS: Coco and Spud are brother and sister.
RELEASED INTO THE OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE: 18 May 2010

Coco & Spud are two of our rehabilitated cheetah in the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
Coco and Spud (as well as Frankie, who was sadly killed by a leopard two months after he was released) are siblings. They were captured from the wild as tiny cubs and kept as pets and because they had been fed an incorrect diet, were all suffering from a calcium deficiency when they came into AfriCat’s care at the age of three months. As a result of the lack of calcium in their diets, their bones were very weak and each had a broken leg and had to undergo surgery. During their recovery they had to be kept as still as possible and therefore had to be kept in separate crates. The cubs were reunited after six weeks and put in a small enclosure until they regained their muscle strength. After three months they were moved to a larger enclosure and were joined by Bones, Frankie (killed by a leopard in 2010), Hammer (killed by a Spotted Hyaena in Nov 2011) and Tongs (killed by a leopard in 2013). Coco and her coalition made TV headlines when their release into the Park was filmed by ITV and shown to three million viewers across the United Kingdom. The series 'Cheetah Kingdom' has gone global now, and fans across the world have learnt about the trials and tribulations of this group of cheetah – from captivity to international success!

Coco is on contraception and has never been allowed to have cubs, as we feel that the calcium deficiency she suffered as a cub, the reason she still has a slight limp, will hamper her chances of becoming a mother and having to go it alone.

Spud’s calcium deficiency seems to have had less adverse effects than his sister’s. Unlike Coco, Spud had no limp until his recent injury and is a very important member of the 'Sibling' group who, since their release in 2010, has been admired by many who have visited Okonjima and who have witnessed their success story.


COCO

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SPUD

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BONES
GENDER: Male
AGE: (2014) 8 years
ORIGIN: Windhoek
SIBLINGS / RELATIONS: None
RELEASED INTO THE OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE: 18 May 2010

Bones is one of our rehabilitated cheetahs in the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
Bones came to AfriCat as a six-month-old orphan cub. He was the only survivor of a group of four cubs whose mother, we assume, was shot a couple of weeks before he came into AfriCat’s care. A farmer found the cubs and rescued them, but from their emaciated condition they clearly hadn’t eaten anything since they had lost their mother. Three of them died in their rescuer’s care, but Bones survived, although he was just a bag of bones (hence the name) when he came to AfriCat. Initially he was fed four small meals throughout the day until his condition picked up and his system could cope with a normal amount of food. Once he had recovered he was placed into a large enclosure to bond with Coco, Spud, Hammer, Frankie and Tongs.

Bones has fathered four sets of cubs in the Okonjima Nature Reserve (father of Dizzy’s and Tong’s cubs born in 2013 and Dizzy’s and Penta’s cubs born in 2014) and is the leader of the group of three cheetah – which includes Coco and her brother Spud.

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See 2013 post of the Siblings: Catching up with the infamous Siblings

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successful cheetah trio

 

SPUD GETS INTO TROUBLE AGAIN

"On a Monday, late afternoon, 14 September 2015, a report of a limping SPUD came to our attention!

One of the Okonjima guides, while out tracking the 'Siblings' as they are known to many, Coco, Bones and Spud, noticed his severe limp, although he could see no blood, nor an open wound.

Immediately the next day Spud was immobilized in the field, for a more detailed examination and to establish the extent of the injury.

The left hock joint was swollen, but no visible break and firm to hard in consistency. Dr Diethardt Rodenwoldt, who assists AfriCat whenever there is an emergency, drove Spud all the way to Windhoek, for the Xray machines in Otjiwarongo were all out of order, either waiting for parts or in line for maintenance.

An X-ray revealed a generalized, advanced joint disease, meaning; "sometime in the past, most likely due to a traumatic incidence, a compression/compound of the tarsal/inter-tarsal bones, occurred, causing severe arthritic and bony changes. He obviously coped well there after with a normal gait."

"This time we suspect that a traumatic impact yet again or a twist of that hock occurred in the field, most probably during a hunt, causing a fracture of the bony spikes that were previously formed for joint stabilization of the total hock joint."

The two options for Spud was to either operate and do a 'permanent stiffening of the hock joint', which possibly could result in life-long captivity, because he would then not be able to keep up with his coalition.  Or the other option, which was chosen, was to maintain him for 2 weeks on a painkiller/anti-inflammatory medication in a smaller enclosure, and to then monitor his reaction to this approach, and as soon as there was less limping, release him back into the wild, with Coco and Bones.

By Monday, 21 September, he had near full weight bearing on his hind foot. Spud was then kept in the enclosure for an additional week. He was closely observed on weight bearing and foot placement in walk, trot and a faster, running pace, before the final decision was taken to release him back with his mates.

Over the following weeks Spud showed a remarkable improvement on the leg and the decision was made to get him back to Coco and Bones as soon as possible.

In the mean time we were hoping his coalition would find him so that we did not have to catch him in a box-trap – transfer him to a crate and then find his team, before releasing him. Again – (this has happened previously) it was like they knew he was ready to join them and the next morning on the 29th Sept 2015 - they appeared out of no-where and stayed outside the enclosure, waiting . . . .  We opened the gate and he went straight out to meet them.

We still monitor Spud closely, and hopefully the leg will not get worse so that the trio can keep on doing what they do best.

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Annual health check - all 3 cats were darted and given a health check.
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Bones and Coco waiting for Spud.
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Spud
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Spud's tibia x-ray.
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Spud's tibia x-ray.
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Sucessful cheetah trio.
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Bones
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Coco
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Spud

 

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