Yesterday saw us fitting our second Cheetah with a radio-collar, which represents a huge step forward in learning about the behaviour of these charismatic cats in this part of the world, where much of the range of the species is outside of protected areas.
Dr Gerhard Kloppers carried out the darting for us, and was able to tell that we are expecting cubs, using an ultrasound machine hooked up to his car battery. Her stomach was too full to tell how many cubs will be born, but his estimate is that she is in the early stages of pregnancy, and it may be another two months before they are born. This will be towards the end of the dry season when game starts to become more and more localised around water, so hunting should not pose too much of a problem for our mother-to-be. This is fantastic news and we cannot wait for our new arrivals!
The holding boma is in an area where there are many Hyeanas, both Brown and Spotted, and so we kept her in for one more night, to be sure that the effect of the anaesthetic had fully worn off, before releasing her this morning. We opened the gates first thing and walked slowly to the far end of the enclosure before spreading out to calmly drive her towards the gate. She was very relaxed, and saw the open gate immediately and loped off to freedom.
Cheetahs suffer from extreme persecution from some sectors of the farming community here, and the more firm data we can get about their habits and ultimately their fate in this region, the better equipped we will be so prevent this area from becoming somewhere where Cheetahs used to live.