• Email


“Rhulani” is free!

  • May 10, 2015 | “Rhulani” is free!

After 176 days in a protective Boma, the gate was opened for the female cheetah. Now she is free and will spend her life in the 75,000 hectares that is Madikwe Game Reserve. The exhilarating project moves into its next phase. 

Rhulani runs past the open gate. Attempt failed

This is an exciting day for us! As we are an important sponsor for this project, the female cheetah has been named “Rhulani”. We cautiously approach the Boma which has been the cheetah’s home since last November. Today, Rhulani is to be released into the wild.

An impala carcass is placed outside the Boma, right in front of the gate, to entice Rhulani from her enclosure. The carcass is cut open, leaving a trail of blood. She has not eaten for several days. The cheetah should ideally sense the smell and follow the trap. But will that work?

For Rhulani, it is very unfamiliar to take a step outside her home

The carcass is cut open, leaving a trail of blood.

The gate of the Boma is wide open. Will Rhulani find the way out?

Rhulani walking at the fence line

We are aware that it may be difficult. Rhulani is a skittish animal, even after many months in the Boma. We find Rhulani hidden under some bushes. She runs away immediately, as expected, to hide in the opposite corner of the Boma. But, almost by chance, she goes along the fence straight towards the open gate.

She stops and turns around. "Now go to the right-hand side," we all hope. The carcass is just 20 meters away. But Rhulani goes straight along the fence line, and remains in the Boma. Attempt failed. Even further attempts are unsuccessful. For Rhulani, it is very unfamiliar to take a step outside her home.

We decide to leave Rhulani alone, to leave the gate open, and monitor the situation from a distance. We set up about 200 meters away on a slight hill overlooking the Boma. Our hope is small because Rhulani is apprehensive about leaving the only home she has known on Madikwe.

More than an hour has passed. We are about to stop the exercise. But lo and behold, what a surprise: Rhulani is standing at the gate. She carefully looks around, takes small steps in an area that is unknown to her. She actually moves towards the carcass. She is there! Now, it would be ideal if we could close the gate behind her.

Rhulani smells the carcass, and anxiously looks around. A little while later she reverses and goes back into her Boma. No! For today, we have to give up. The positive aspect is that at least Rhulani learned about the vast open area that awaits her outside of her home.

Four days later, after numerous attempts, the time has come. On 8 May 2015, Madikwe’s Conservation Department informs: “We are relieved and ecstatic to inform everyone that the female cheetah, Rhulani, was released from the Boma today. A thousand thank you’ s to every single person that helped with her habituation, everyone that spent time with her,  everyone that had coffee and sundowner breaks with guests with her, for the barok and Mozart music playlist that was created for her - she heard it on a daily basis to attempt to calm her!”

Right after the release, Rhulani was seen on the hill South West of the Boma. We know that it will be difficult, at least in the first year, to see Rhulani during game drives. Rhulani is still a very guarded animal. The 5 male cheetah of the reserve have already located her during the time she spent in the Boma. So we will be holding thumbs that Rhulani thrives in Madikwe and produces numerous cubs in her lifetime in her new home!

Follow frequent updates on this project on our Social media #RhulaniCheetah

Carlien (Field Ecologist) and Rolf (Rhulani's owner) set up about 200 meters away on a slight hill overlooking the Boma.