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She is dead. There is no doubt.

  • July 05, 2015 | Rhulani Safari Lodge

Sadly, the project to build a cheetah population in Madikwe, has experienced another heavy blow. We have reported about this unfortunate development a few days ago (read here). The satellite collar was found in the bushes on June 13, and thus the cheetah female “Rhulani” declared dead. As the body was never found, why is it certain that the cheetah is really dead? And what will happen now with the project?

The collar was closely lashed around Rhulani's neck, so, there is no hope that she could have squeezed her head through. 

“Vultures and hyenas eat everything, even the skin or the bones” – Carlien Esterhuizen, Field Ecologist, Madikwe

Satellite information revealed a first coming together of the cheetah female “Rhulani” with the four cheetah brothers on 8 June, and by circumstantial evidence it was a "fatal encounter". A few days later, the satellite collar was found, about 500 meters away from the fatal encounter. The collar was intact and showed no bite marks or damages. But the dead animal was not found.

"Perhaps we should have examined the area between the location of fatal clash and the location where the collar was found," says Carlien Esterhuizen, Field Ecologist in Madikwe, leading the project. According to Carlien, the probability to be successful was very low as the size of the area was quite big, and a dead animal gets quickly eaten by other reserve inhabitants. "Vultures and hyenas eat everything, even the skin or the bones", she says.

But couldn’t the collar just be broken in the fight? Or as a sleek cat, wasn’t she able to strip the collar over her head? “Impossible”, says Carlien, “The collar was closely lashed around her neck, and when we found it in the bushes, it was still lashed and showed no damages”. So, there is no hope that Rhulani could have squeezed her head through and run away. “She is dead. There is no doubt.”

If we now look to the future, the project will continue in spite of the challenges. "We are already evaluating on how to get another cheetah female for Madikwe", says Carlien. At the time of a possible new release, it will be analyzed whether the relatively large coalition of cheetah brothers must be reduced, in order to limit the potential danger to the female.

Stay connected and read further updates on #RhulaniCheetah.