Athena was released into Erindi Private Game Reserve for the first time on 15 October 2013 alongside Luna. During this time she proved to be successful in terms of finding food by managing to kill two young warthogs, an oryx calf, a sub-adult waterbuck, and a kudu within the first few days. However, after 15 days in Erindi, Athena escaped the game reserve. On 7 November 2013, Ryan Marcel Sucaet, CCF’s Assistant Cheetah Keeper & Research Assistant, and the Erindi staff re-captured Athena and returned her to Erindi. She was then housed in an enclosure at Erindi until the current release. While in captivity, the Erindi staff took care of the cat, feeding her and habituating her to Erindi game viewer vehicles.
|photo by Warren Court|
On 21 February 2014, Athena was re-released back into the Erindi Game Reserve. Dr. Laurie Marker, CCF Ecologist, Matti Nghikembua, and Ryan, along with the German film crew from ZDF tivi "pur+" journeyed to Erindi to help with and capture on film the release. Athena was being held in a 1ha boma and on the day of release she was moved into a transfer crate and moved to the center of the reserve to a large waterhole for release. Just before dusk, the crate door was opened and Athena, the six-year old female, ran out. She ran a few hundred meters and settled under a tree where we supplemented her with a large portion of oryx meat. She ate calmly under the shade of trees near the water hole.
|Athena defending kill - photo by Ryan Sucaet|
Ryan stayed at Erindi for the next two weeks to monitor Athena’s progress. On her second full day after release, Athena killed a young wildebeest calf and later in the week a newborn springbok calf. Supplement feeding of Athena was not necessary during the two-week monitoring process as she consistently hunted on her own. However, she was given liver treats from the Erindi game viewer vehicle to maintain her habituation as well as trust with people. She was given water on several occasions. During these first few weeks, she endured extreme weather, including violent lightening/rainstorms as well as flash floods, which produced large puddles where she was frequently found drinking. Athena averaged around 3.5km movements per day covering a large portion of the central and western part of Erindi.
|photo by Warren Court|
The Erindi staff continue to monitor Athena and frequently find her with a distended belly, evidence that she is hunting successfully. Today’s news was that Athena has made her way to the northern part of the reserve and has found the two CCF male cheetahs (Chester and Obi-Wan) that were reintroduced into Erindi in June 2012. We are hopeful that breeding will take place in the near future.
|map of Athena's movements after release into Erindi|
Last week we took another female to Erindi, Jacomina. She has been at CCF’s reintroduction training camp since the end of December where she perfected her hunting skills. She is in holding at Erindi and will be released in the next couple weeks. We will keep you posted on our cheetah rehabilitation and reintroductions so please stay tuned for future updates. Your support is vital for the success of this program and the rest of the work we do here at CCF so please consider donating to ensure our mission moves forward. For more information please visit our website at www.cheetah.org