Facilitated by EWT’s Vincent van der Merwe & monitored by Madikwe’s Craig Catton.
On 20 September 2017, three Cheetah females (two years old) were collared and transported to the Boma at Madikwe Game Reserve in North West Province. They were housed for three months in the Boma to familiarize themselves with a new environment, settle down and adjust to a new diet.
In the early hours of 13 December 2017, these females received a final health check, adjustments on satellite collar and supplement injections. The next morning they were released from the Boma into the Reserve. Less than an hour later, the dominant female (Blue tag) killed an adult female Impala.
To assist in sustaining these females, whilst they gain experience in hunting, supplementary feeding was given to all three females.
Four days later, it seemed as Red tag female went her solitary way.
On 24 December 2017, the two dominant females killed a young wildebeest calf.
Evidently all three females adjusted well to their new environment. The male Cheetahs at Madikwe were giving the females a hard time and one of the dominant females acquired a serious leg injury in January 2018, but recovered well.
They survived the first three months after their release and were hunting successfully. No supplementary feeding was required and they were considered self-sufficient.
The shy Red tag female, who broke away from the other two soon after release, originally performed very well. She then struggled for a short time after receiving an injury from a prey animal. Dr Peter Caldwell patched her up nicely and she appeared to be hunting successfully again. Afterwards she was very closely monitored.
Sad news arrived on 29 November 2018 as the Green tag female had passed away from suspected Feline Calici virus infection. She was found in a bad condition on the Reserve a few days ago.
In January 2019, Blue tag female seemed to be losing condition too quickly. She was immobilised and housed in the Madikwe Boma by Dr Gerhardus Scheepers. She seemed to be recovering well, started eating and even killed a Scrub Hare. Sadly she was found dead next to the water trough in the Boma in the morning of 4 February 2019. Although there has been a Rabies outbreak in Madikwe, they did not suspect that she succumbed to Rabies.
During the period of 5 to 19 July 2019, the last surviving female, Red tag, was badly mauled by some kind of predator shortly before she gave birth. The skin on her front right leg was completely sleeved off. Dr Gerhard Steenkamp had fixed her up successfully.
Red Tag female was seen hunting successfully again after the medical care she reveived. Her leg wound was seen healing perfectly.
We suspected she gave birth shortly after the incident, but sadly was seen eating her cubs.
This could possibly be explained by the high amount of stress, she went through in her third trimester, caused by fighting with the predator all the way to being sedated for surgery.
Cheetahs, in general, start feeding from the back of a carcass, eating the soft and most nutritious parts first. When released, Blue and Green tag females started eating from the back of the carcass as per usual Cheetah behaviour. Red tag female, on the other hand, started feeding from the shoulder area. Looking back to their time in the Boma, the two dominant females would not give space to Red tag to feed from the hind quarters, which resulted in her learning to eat from the shoulder area first. She kept up this interesting behaviour with every prey she caught.
At the end of February 2020, Craig contacted us with very exciting news that Red tag female gave birth for the second time. From far, four beautiful, healthy cubs were observed.
Below an overview of the den site during this time.
After the 7th of March, Red tag female, was seen around the same area for 5 days, but no sign of the cubs. She left her current region, moved North-East and didn’t return to the den block at all. She looked in great health but the cubs had not been seen again since the 8th of March.
The area, where she gave birth, had a very dense Elephant and Buffalo population. The den site showed activity of damaged vegetation and Elephant tracks but the cub’s carcasses were never found. Unfortunately, we will never know what exactly had happened to Red tag female and her cubs that day.
On the morning of 19 July 2020 we received the heart-breaking news that Red tag female was found dead. Post mortem research showed that she had a fractured right front leg. This injury combined with the cold weather during that period, could have caused her passing away.
During her free roaming chapter of 30 months at Madikwe Game Reserve, Red tag female was self-sufficient, fell pregnant twice and gave birth to a litter of beautiful healthy cubs.
Red Tag female
“Her spirit touched us all.” – Craig Catton, Madikwe Game Reserve.