Season Report 2017
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.
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.
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.
Read more about JoJo, Electra, the aeroplanes and many more of our residents over on the AfriCat Website.