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Cheetah Darting

By 5 years ago
Categories Limpopo and KZN

Recently, GVI Karongwe’s volunteers got to experience a veterinary procedure on two cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus). “Ketswiri”, a female that GVI has monitored since 2008 had successfully raised a single cub to sub-adulthood and it was time for the young female to be relocated.

GVI volunteers, staff, vets and reserve management with the two darted cheetahs

Since her introduction, “Ketswiri” has contributed a significant amount of interesting data including a stint as a study subject for the Queen’s University of Belfast’s Cheetah Energetics study. Unfortunately, her poor record as a mother has also contributed data on den sites, infant mortality and inter-species competition. Due to our daily monitoring of her our volunteers have helped us determine that up to September 2012, she has given birth to 5 litters totalling a minimum of 15 cubs. Her one surviving cub, born in March 2011 is the only offspring she’s successfully raised beyond 8 months of age.  This female sub-adult was one of a litter of 5 that made it out of their den site at 2 months old. Since then, she has experienced the death of her siblings, three of which were all killed by Karongwe’s lions on the night of 12th July 2011.

Cheetah’s suffer from a limited gene pool, are naturally low on the predator hierarchy and suffer high infant mortality rates (up to 50 – 75% of cubs die before they reach 3 months old) where other major predators occur in their range. Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and on Appendix 1 of CITES, drastic conservation measures have been implemented in Southern Africa to help ensure their survival, especially by organisations such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). GVI has had a long standing relationship with the EWT (www.ewt.org.za), a South African NGO focusing on identifying the key factors threatening biodiversity and develop mitigating measures to reduce them. The EWT features the Carnivore Conservation Programme, within which there is a specific Cheetah Meta-population Coordinator to which GVI contributes Karongwe’s Cheetah data. The meta-population approach involves managing as many isolated Cheetah populations as possible, treating them as one inter-breeding unit, manipulating the gene pool to avoid inbreeding and the spread of disease.

GVI Staff and volunteers taking measurements of the sub-adult

Despite the loss of 80% of her current litter, Ketswiri’s remaining cub was of high value to the EWT as she is at the age of independence and is therefore at risk of mating with her father; she is used to ecotourism activities; has been witnessed successfully killing her own prey and has experienced the challenges of living in a predator-full reserve. GVI’s contribution of data and information on Karongwe’s cheetah population and genetic relationships has helped the EWT secure a new reserve for the female cub where there is no risk of inbreeding.

Ketswiri and the cub were successfully darted and the cub has safely made it to her new home where she will be kept in a holding “boma” for two weeks before she will be released to roam free in a 30000 Hectare reserve. Ketswiri’s collar was replaced with a new VHF implant, ensuring GVI can continue monitoring her for at least the next two years or so.

Ketswiri receiving her radio transmitting implant

You can read more about Ketswiri on previous blog posts from around when her litter was younger.

Andreas Fox
GVI Karongwe