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Fatal attack: only Rhulani’s collar was found

  • June 20, 2015 | Rhulni Safari Lodge

Since 8 May, we closely follow the tracks of the first female cheetah in Madikwe, called “Rhulani". With excitement, because after enormous challenges, the dream to grow a cheetah population, was about to become reality. But also with concern, because all of us were aware of the difficulties of such a project. The sad news reached us on 19 June. Rhulani had only a short life in Madikwe. She died after a fatal attack.

Rhulani died after a fatal attack with the four cheetah male

During the short time in freedom, Rhulani moved north along the Madikwe’s western fence line, where she spent most of her time. Her tracks and satellite collar indicated that she was about 1 km east of the fence line, where she successfully made her first kill, an adult impala male. From there she continued to move north. On 25 May, 17 days after release, she was seen on game drive for the first time, on pure light. Rhulani was somewhat skittish towards the vehicle, but the sighting was still decent. One day after, she was seen again, this time as she walked straight into a pride of lions. Rhulani was only 30 meters away from them, when she saw them and changed direction, before the lions even noticed her. This obviously shows that instinctively, Rhulani was aware of the danger lions posed to her.

“We knew from beginning, that this could be a possible outcome, so it would be wrong if we were to abandon the project now.” – Rolf, Rhulani's owner

On the 7 June, the four male cheetah brothers and the female were about 3.6 km apart with no indication that they were aware of one another. The males spent most of the day lounging near Wonderboom Gate until heading south in the early evening, about 3.6 kms. The female was moving slowly, during that day, in fact, she only moved 1.8 km in a south easterly direction, which was away from the general area of the four males. Then at about midnight, Rhulani moved quickly west covering almost 5 km in 8 hours, possibly due to some male lions in close range of her and vocalizing, and by which she was walking straight into the male cheetahs at 8:05am on the morning of 8 June.

The collared cheetah male moved directly toward the female and possibly attacked her. From a total of 1,523 collar downloads during her release period in Madikwe this was the first contact. We believe that the attack caused fatal injuries to Rhulani as 8 hours later, she had only moved seven meters from where the contact took place, while the male cheetahs moved away and were already at 7.2 km distance from the site one day later. By midnight on the 8 June, the female’s collar (whether it was still attached to her is uncertain) had moved 556m north to where it was found on the 13 June. The collar was retrieved with no bite marks or damage to it and was completely in tact.

"This is very sad news," says Rhulani's Owner Rolf Steiner, who supported this project not only as a sponsor, but also with his heart and passion. “We knew from beginning, that this could be a possible outcome, so it would be wrong if we were to abandon the project now.” 

We are curious to see how the new plans of Madikwe’s Conservation Dpt. will look like, and we will keep you updated.

Female cheetah and male coalition range from release date of female, Rhulani, until her presumed death. The red circle indicates where the interaction is likely to have taken place.