Cheetahs can't chase things around corners

We’ve had quite an eventful past week here at CCF.  Last week as we were driving back from a field count we found a baby bird in the barn with no sign of a mother around.  It was about the size of a newly hatched chicken and couldn’t even stand up properly, so I guess it must have fallen out of a nest somewhere in the roof of the barn.  I decided to pick it up and take it to the clinic with the hope that maybe we could at least give it some fluids and food.  When I got there no one seemed to be around so I got a shoe box and put the chick inside in the hope that it might calm down in the dark.  I got some water and tried to feed it to the little thing but sadly it died after taking just a few gulps of water.  Poor little thing, but I guess that’s nature.

Whilst rhino monitoring earlier on in the week, I saw a green mamba (a deadly venomous snake) cross the road.  This was actually the second mamba I’d seen in a matter of days, as I saw one whilst driving on a game count a few days previously.  That time, the snake reared up in the road at us and I was extremely glad to be in a vehicle at that point!!

We have all been talking about taking a hike up the Waterberg plateau (the nearest mountain to us that borders CCF property) and finally on Sunday we decided to take the initiative to get out there.   We drove to Picnic Dam at the foot of the incline and as we arrived it started to piss it down.  Fortunately in Namibia it never seems to rain for long, so we waited it out in the car, and sure enough after 5 minutes it had finished.  It was actually lucky that it had rained because it cooled the air off and shielded the boiling hot sun from us as we made the ascent.  It only took us about an hour to climb up to a look-out point near to the part where the mountain goes vertical and you need hardcore climbing gear to go any further.  

Along the way we found a beautiful fairytale-lookalike tree that could easily have been 5 m in diameter.  We’re not quite sure what kind of tree it is, but there was talk of it being an overgrown fig tree.  I can imagine elves living inside of it.

We’ve had some quite successful game counts over the last few days.  On the night count we saw a honey badger (that I at first thought was a scrub hare!), two porcupines, some jackals and a jumping aardwolf, and on the last afternoon count we saw two giraffes in the big field!  The night game count was pretty interesting driving the dilapidated old Isuzu as the suspension is totally gone, the gearbox is temperamental, the lights barely show 5 metres in front of the car and the diesel gauge is broken so you can’t tell how much fuel you have left.  We managed to do the whole circuit without dying though, which was great, considering the amount of holes in the road made by annoying warthogs, aardvarks and various other burrowing animals! 

One of our Anatolian shepherd livestock guarding dogs was attacked a couple of days ago by an overprotective mother warthog.  Our dogs have a natural instinct to investigate anything new in their environment and have found warthog piglets rather fun things to run after.  However, on this occasion, the mother was close by and didn’t take kindly to her offspring being put in danger by a big scary dog.  She gored him in the abdomen, breaking the intestines.  After four hours of surgery he looks fine (if a little mopey) and should go back out with the goats next week.  Here’s hoping he’s learnt his lesson!

We have four orphaned cheetah cubs here that were brought here at a few weeks of age after the mother was shot on a farm.  They have been handraised by humans and as such are extremely tame.  They are used as educational tools and are shown to school children to teach them about the importance of predators in the ecosystem.  We like to exercise all our cats here and the cubs are no exception (btw I use the term “cubs” loosely as they are nearly adults now!).  Part of the big field was mowed recently and proved to be a great place to put out a motorised pulley for the cubs to run after.  

Cheetahs respond to any fast moving object (hence why you should never run around them!) so all they needed as stimulation was a white clothes rag attached to the line.  They ran after the rag like a domestic cat running after a motorised mouse toy, only about 20 times faster!  It was very hard to get any good photos of them as they were so quick.  It was very impressive seeing them go full pelt after the rag, but they seemed to get confused when the rag went around a corner and they’d carry on running for about 20 m before realising that they’d lost sight of it!  Bless.


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