Comparison of High Definition Oscillometric & Direct Arterial Blood Pressure in Cheetahs
Like domestic cats, older cheetahs frequently suffer from chronic kidney disease and since the kidneys play an important role in the regulation of blood pressure, we have suspected for some time that these cheetahs may also develop a chronic rise in blood pressure (hypertension). Measuring blood pressure in a non-anaesthetised cheetah is however not without it's challenges. Automated non-invasive blood pressure monitors with an inflatable cuff, similar to those used in humans, can be applied to the tail or leg of a cheetah. Stress-free measurements are critical, since any elevation in stress levels would also lead to an increase in blood pressure, resulting in inaccurate readings. Captive cheetahs can be trained to calmly have their blood pressure measured with no or only minor restraint, but we simply do not know how accurate these non-invasive blood pressure machines are in cheetahs.
A Strange Discovery and a New Surgical Procedure!
(Written by Dr Ashleigh Tordiffe for PAKO Magazine – Children’s edition)
During the 2014 & 2015 health examinations on our cheetahs at AfriCat, the vets performed abdominal ultrasonography on all of the cheetahs. This means that they scan each cheetah using an ultrasound scanner, in order to make sure that all of the animal’s internal organs look healthy. When it was 11-year-old Curly’s turn in July 2014, no one was expecting anything to be abnormal. She seemed perfectly healthy – she was eating well, behaving normally, and in very good condition. So you can imagine everyone’s surprise when Doctor Kirberger, the specialist performing the ultrasound scans, pointed out a strange growth on the screen. It was about the size and shape of a tennis ball . . . and it was right in the middle of Curly’s abdomen!
An attempt of social integration of two unrelated wild dog packs and re-introduction in the Okonjima Nature Reserve
With an estimated 6 000 - 7 000 (Creel & Creel, 2015) individuals left in the wild, the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is classified as "Endangered" according to the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species (IUCN, 2015.2). Habitat degradation and fragmentation, relentless anthropogenic persecution, prey depletion as well as the exposure to infectious diseases such as rabies and canine distemper, are contributing to a continuing decreasing population trend. Once distributed throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, at present, wild dog distribution is restricted to areas with low human population densities in East and southern Africa. Conservation efforts are diverse and include intensive population monitoring programmes, human-wildlife mitigation, habitat restoration and rabies vaccination campaigns for domestic dogs.
The AfriCat 2015 Annual Health Check
Once a year a team of veterinarians, veterinary nurses, researchers, students and volunteers meet at the AfriCat Foundation to carry out the annual health examinations on all the semi-captive large cats. Some form of annual health check is required by law in Namibia for all captive and semi-captive felids, but at AfriCat we go way beyond what is required, both to ensure that the cats are maintained in excellent health and to maximize the research opportunities. For the past 3 years the team has been led by Dr Adrian Tordiffe [2013 & 2014 from the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa – 2015: from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria (UP)], and Dr Gerhard Steenkamp from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria (UP).
Cheetahs in Captivity Need A Better Diet
A lack of high-energy fat in the big cats' diets may cause depression. Which is more stressful: being free, but having to fight for your own food and survival, or being confined in captivity, with all your food and security needs provided for? In cheetahs it seems that unnatural food – rather than captivity itself – is the cause of their known health problems in captivity. Captive cheetahs commonly suffer from chronic inflammation of the stomach lining, various forms of kidney failure, apparent low libido and immune system abnormalities, which are rarely seen in their wild counterparts. Also, members of the cat family are known to groom themselves meticulously, yet captive cheetahs are often covered in burrs and biting flies and hardly seem to notice these discomforts.
Low Season Sightings Report December 2014 - June 2015
Electra - came out on top this Low Season as the most sighted leopard with 69 sightings. After losing both of her cubs last year she kept going strong and holding her territory in the South Eastern part of the 200km² Okonjima Nature Reserve. She was seen mating on a couple of occasions with Nkosi as well as with newly-collared Madiba in December. During the end of March this year she kept on returning to the same place for several weeks - a hole in a termite mound. Was she having cubs again? On 10 April it was confirmed that Electra had given birth to two cubs when she was sighted moving den sites.
World Lion Day - 10 August 2015
And the time has come for Namibia’s lions to be regarded as a greater asset alive than dead, not only in its national parks but also in the communal conservancies, which are in essence, our wilderness areas. Namibia boasts approximately 79 registered Communal Conservancies (MET March 2013), of which less than 50% can claim the presence of resident lions; those conservancies adjacent to or in close proximity to protected areas such as Parks and tourism concessions, may be home to lion prides (some 'prides' comprising only two or three lionesses and their cubs, with no resident males), but for the rest, small groups, solitary lions or male coalitions passing through, seem to be the norm.
AfriCat Hobatere Lion Project Update June 2015
The Namibia Large Carnivore Atlas (Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Large Carnivore Atlas 2012) estimates the Namibian population at 1113 – 1644 lions in three density distribution categories: low, medium and high (see distribution Map below). The Kunene and Etosha sub-populations are isolated from the Caprivi/Khaudom sub-population. The Hobatere Concession Area (hereafter referred to as Hobatere) lies adjacent to western Etosha, with the Hobatere lion population falling within the Etosha sub-population and in the medium to high density category according to the distribution maps published by Namibian large carnivore atlas. Lions (Panthera leo) move in and out of Hobatere on a regular basis, along the southern, western and northern boundaries as well as between western Etosha National Park and Hobatere; lions also regularly move through the Etosha boundary fence onto adjacent communal farmland (comprising approximately six communal conservancies) and approximately fifty free-hold livestock / game farms.
AfriCat Lion Research Project Expanded
Last week, three more lions were successfully collared by AfriCat. These lions, two males and a female, were fitted with satellite collars in the Etendeka tourism concession. This is a great step towards expanding AfriCat’s lion research project into the Omatendeka and Anabeb conservancies. On Monday the 25th of May, AfriCat North was contacted by Dennis Liebenberg, manager of the Etendeka Mountain Camp, with the news that at least three lions were very close to the Camp. AfriCat has been planning to expand its lion research to the west and so this was an excellent opportunity to fit some more lions with GPS-Satellite collars. Early on Tuesday the 26th David Roberts, AfriCat’s Vet, set out from AfriCat North’s base will all the necessary darting, measuring and collaring equipment.
AfriCat and Tusk Trust !
"Tusk Trust celebrated its 25 year anniversary last week with a dinner hosted by its patron, The Duke of Cambridge, at Windsor Castle. Donna Hanssen was honoured to attend on behalf of AfriCat, one of only two projects that Tusk support in Namibia. Tusk Trust play a hugely important role at the AfriCat Foundation. Long term supporter and veterinarian, Dr Mark Jago recently wrote, 'Over the years financial assistance has been provided from many quarters, but one of the most loyal and longest-standing partners, has been the Tusk Trust.
Conservation Through Education !
The land, the drama, the splendour – all of it comes together in the northwest of Namibia known today as the Kunene region. It has to be one of the most poignant places remaining on the planet, combining both wide open planes and vast towering mountains on which life at its most real, its most raw, plays out the truth of what is and what has to be. For the most fortunate of us it is possible, on rare occasions, to witness the majesty of one of the most elegant of creatures as she careers at dramatic speeds across this semi-desert , harsh land in pursuit of life. For here, in the most unlikely of places, the cheetah exists right at the very limit of her evolutionary-adapted range.
Current Research on the Cheetah Microbiome
A microbiome is a community of microorganisms that share our body space and play an important part in our physiology and health. Most of these organisms inhabit our gastrointestinal tract, but natural microorganism communities also live on our skin, in our mouths and elsewhere in our bodies. It is estimated that there are 10 times as many microbial organisms (about 100 trillion organisms) on and in the human body than actual human cells. Each of us is therefore a walking ecosystem rather than an individual entity.
AfriCat North - Field Notes 2014
Our field-base, AfriCat North, is home to a team of dedicated and driven conservationists, who, together with the Lion Guards of the communal conservancies, spend long, hot days and long, cold nights collaring lions, monitoring their movement in and out of the protected areas of the Hobatere Concession Area and Etosha National Park, at the same time supporting farming communities in human-wildlife conflict zones along these borders.
The Siblings - Coco, her brother Spud and their leader 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.