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"An unfortunate incident with an even more unfortunate outcome"

- News, Community & Conservation

It has been exactly one month since the collaring of the two cheetah females and the unfortunate death of one of the two animals one day later. A medical post mortem report gives us some insight into the circumstances.

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The fact that she had taken so much meat is also evidence that she was awake
- Dr. Louis Greeff
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"We are still all very sad about this loss. First, of course, because of the amazing animal itself and secondly, because of this unfortunate outcome inspite of an incredible effort of a passionate team, that made sure everything will be done with maximum caution and professionalism in each step", says Rhulani's owner Rolf, who supports this project. The aim for the past three years already, was to introduce female cheetahs in Madikwe and thus to build a stable population.

"In my opinion this was a very unfortunate incident with an even more unfortunate outcome", concludes Dr. Louis Greeff, one of the most respected wildlife vets in the Limpopo and North West Province, in the final post mortem report. Dr. Greeff was also conducting this specific collaring on the 30th of January and remembers that during the immobilization process, there was in no way any concerns about the cats' well-being. He says: "The weather was cool, the particular cat's anaesthesia was perfect and her reaction to it was normal. She was quite awake when we left her and directional reflex was already there. I don’t think the anaesthetic was responsible for her death."

The fact that she had taken so much meat is also evidence that she was awakeDr. Louis Greeff

In the wake-up phase, both cats were placed approximately ten meters away from an impala carcass and monitored until they were awake enough. Later that day another check was performed and the carcass was almost completely eaten. Also the deceased cheetah had a full stomach according to the autopsy. "The fact that she had taken so much meat is also evidence that she was awake." says Dr. Greeff.

"The cheetah female suffocated due to a piece of meat stuck in her trachea", mentions the final report as a possibility for the unfortunate death. It is noticeable that the piece of meat was quite large and that there are clear trauma marks, because of the meat that got stuck, which would support this theory. One could now question the common practice to put the cheetah close to a carcass in the wake-up phase, but Dr. Greeff says: "I have awakened several cheetahs near carcasses and never had an incident before."

"We are all aware of how difficult the project is at every stage, and we will not give up", says Rolf. The second female cheetah recovered perfectly and is still in its protected boma where guests can pass by on their game drive and see the animal. According to the plan, this animal will be released end of March.

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