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No signals: Does this mean that Iketle is dead?

- News, Wildlife, Community & Conservation

On 15 September we reported that we have lost the signal and traces of our female Cheetah Iketle. Now, more than a month later, Iketle remains disappeared. None of the rangers from the Madikwe reserve has ever been able to see Iketle on a game drive. Does this mean that Iketle is dead? Has the Cheetah project failed?

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2016 05 13 13 08 37

“No”, says Moremi Keabetswe, Acting Reserve manager in Madikwe. Although he admits:  “It is very difficult to say as to what could have happened to her. The signal of this collar has been lost, we have flown the whole of the reserve and almost 30km away from the reserve fence South, East & West with no luck.”

But there is reason for hope, says Moremi: “I was advised that unfortunately during her introduction the intended collar wasn’t available and a substitute but older collar was used just to assist speeding up the process. The only sense we could make out of this is that there are possibilities that this collar might have gone flat considering it was an old collar.”

The above is supported by the fact that there had been brief sightings of a collared Cheetah at the Eastern fence line but unfortunately all these sightings were not made by guides so no follow-ups on sighting confirmations had been done. The reserve has embarked on reporting any Cheetah tracks while on drive so that necessary follow-ups can be done to recover Iketle.

Rhulani's owner Rolf Steiner, who was personally present at the day of Iketle's release, is optimistic: "I remember her being a very shy animal, so I can imagine that Ikele hides somewhere when she hears a vehicle." Madikwe is a territory of 750 sqm, so it is easier to find a needle in a haystack.

In addition, the threatened Cheetah females usually look for a protected place when they get pregnant, to give birth. Madikwe is a Big 5 reserve and has many dangerous predators like lions, leopards, wild dogs or hyenas, which are a big threat to cheetah.

So, has Iketle given birth and will suddenly appear somewhere with cute little cubs? Maybe just a dream. Given that Iketle's release was five months ago, and the gestation period of cheetahs is only 3 months, why not?

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