pangolin in the okonjima nature reserve

AfriCat Pangolin Project
Determining the home range size, population density, habitat selection and ecology of wild ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) in the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
Biodiversity across the world is increasingly under threat and facing diminishment as climate change, habitat loss, poaching, and wildlife trafficking are ever growing threats.  It is important now more than ever to know current populations and ecological statuses of vulnerable and keystone species to better understand what conservation management practices and methods should be implemented to secure a future on Earth for these groups.

 brown hyenas in the okonjima nature reserve

Brown Hyaena Den News
Usually seen foraging alone, brown hyaena are often assumed to be solitary animals, however they been described as ‘obviously solitary, but secretly social’ due to their highly social lives which are played out at hidden dens away from sight.
The Okonjima/AfriCat brown hyaena research project has been gaining insights into the secret social lives of brown hyaenas using camera traps, which is greatly enhancing our understanding of the study
population. Brown hyaena dens are not easy to find, being deliberately hidden away, often in thick bush far away from roads or areas of human activity. However, GPS collars fitted to adult individuals makes locating dens much easier.

 AfriCat rehabilitated cheetahs in the Okonjima Nature reserve

AfriCat Cheetah Rehabilitation Project
AfriCat’s Cheetah Rehabilitation project was initiated in 2000 and aimed to give some of AfriCat’s captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) the opportunity to return to their natural environment.
Between 2000 and 2018, 53 former captive cheetahs were released into the 200 km2Okonjima Nature Reserve. Besides reducing the number of cheetahs in captivity, the project aimed to assess whether rehabilitation is a successful instrument of conserving an endangered population.  The majority of all rehabilitated animals were individuals rescued from farmland who spent a significant amount of time in captivity prior their release. Age upon release varied between 10 months and 8 years.

 environmental education at AfriCat

CYMOT Sponsorship
Why CYMOT supports AfriCat.
“Ever since Greensport was born in 1991, it had committed to conservation and support towards various institutions of wildlife conservation. AfriCat and it’s unique programmes of various conservation projects, including the Rehabilitation of endangered species, Environmental Education and Mitigating the ever-present Human-Wildlife Conflict, creates a deep feeling of appreciation amongst our management members. It is therefore a logical conclusion that Greensport is proud to be associated with a determined and professional team of Namibian conservationists at AfriCat.”

 walk 4 wildlife Uk

Walk 4 Wildlife
Three intrepid AfriCat supporters braved the elements and took part in the Walk 4 Wildlife 2017 Night Walk in the New Forest that began at 10pm on Saturday evening 28th October and went through to 6am on Sunday morning. That was the time that it took to complete the 20 miles through England's newest National Park. Georgina, Andrea and Janet at the beginning of their 20 mile walk. The three were all raising money for AfriCat. Andrea and Janet had both grown up in the New Forest and felt it was the natural place for them to take part in the Walk 4 Wildlife 2017. Walk 4 Wildlife 2017 organised a number of events throughout the country for wildlife charities to raise money and publicity for them.

 lion lights initiative at Africat North

Lion Lights - #LionLivesMatter
'With a Lion Light - the Future is Bright' 
Sincere thanks to the ALL who supported the AfriCat Lion Lights crowd-funding effort during the second half of 2017. With your support, we successfully raised sufficient funds to purchase 200 Lion Lights from Kenya that were transported overland to Namibia, reaching AfriCat by early January 2018. The AfriCat Lion Guards have since met with farmers in the hardest hit lion conflict ‘hot-spots’, instructing them how to attach and maintain the Lion Lights to provide best effect; approximately 90% of the Lion Lights have now been deployed with at least another 500 units needed to protect livestock in their nocturnal kraals along the Hobatere southern, western and northwestern borders and Etosha’s southwestern and western boundaries with communal farmland.

 taking a blood sample from a leopard

AfriCat Annual Health Check 2018
Annual health checks on the large carnivores at AfriCat are headed by veterinarians from Namibia and South Africa. In-depth health examinations are carried out on all the captive and rehabilitated carnivores. All the cats are darted and then taken to a well equipped, newly built AfriCat clinic for their evaluations.
From the 25th to the 29th of June 2018, the veterinary team from the University of Pretoria, assisted by Dr Diethardt Rodenwoldt (Namibian Vet Council reg. no. 84/7 (wildlife) and the AfriCat team examine and immobilized and 24 carnivores (18 cheetahs, 4 leopards and 2 lions) for the AfriCat Annual Health Checks and to collect samples for their registered research project – “The long-term health monitoring and immune-competence of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and other felids at AfriCat in Namibia”.

 The Lion Whisperer

Lion Whisperer Volunteers to work with AfriCat
AfriCat works where human/lion conflict is at its greatest, an age-old story throughout Africa where communities are going about their traditional farming methods on the fringes of wilderness areas. The work is in remote areas and offers up incredibly difficult conditions for communities trying to protect their livestock from predators. It is here, from the field base at AfriCat North, where various programmes mitigate the conflict between the two. These projects are dependent on the generosity of sponsors and donors, and one of these is the Kevin Richardson Foundation. Kevin recently visited the AfriCat Foundation at Okonjima and further afield, met with the AfriCat North Lion Guards, who dedicate their time and energy to promoting greater tolerance and co-existence on communal farmland adjacent to protected areas such as the Etosha National Park and the Hobatere Concession.      

 AfriCat Cheetah Ruff

The Masters
Dash, Ruff and Tumble first came to AfriCat in 2008 at the age of one month and lived at AfriCat’s Carnivore Care Centre for the following four years. In 2012 the sibling trio was released into Okonjima’s 20 000 ha nature reserve together with their coalition mates Dizzy and Baxter. Their rehabilitation process seemed promising in the beginning, as they started to hunt almost immediately after their release. After Baxter was killed not long after the release and Dizzy decided to lead a solitary life, the remaining trio only had sporadic hunting success and eventually became sedentary along the eastern boundary fence where game is sparse. After six months of limited movement and minimal hunting success, the decision was made to take Dash, Ruff and Tumble back to AfriCat’s Care Centre in December 2012 where they would act as educational ambassadors for their wild counter parts. The group was called ‘The Masters due to their advanced age and in recognition of their work as “educationalists”.

metabolic research on cheetahs at AfriCat

Metabolic Profiling of Cheetahs in Captivity
In captivity, cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are known to suffer from several chronic diseases that do not occur in their wild-living counterparts. These include lymphoplasmacytic gastritis, glomerulosclerosis, renal amyloidosis, veno-occlusive disease of the liver, adrenal hyperplasia and several ill-defined neurological disorders. Many factors have been proposed as possibly being the cause of this phenomenon – factors such as stress, lack of exercise, low genetic variability and the provision of unnatural diets in captive facilities – but to date convincing pathophysiological explanations for these diseases have been lacking or unsatisfactory. Doctor Adrian Tordiffe investigated this problem using a systems biology approach – in other words, he attempted to understand as many of the components of the cheeatah’s metabolic system as possible. He did this by using untargeted metabolomic analysis of serum and urine from captive and free-ranging cheetahs, thereby generating new physiological data for this species in the hope of developing a better understanding of their metabolism.

 louse fly on cheetahs

Cheetah Flies and More ...
Do they really bite? Do they suck a small amount of the blood while on their host – or are they simply living off dry skin - as previously believed ?
The louse fly of cheetahs belongs to the genus Hippobosca within the family Hippoboscidae, but is commonly known just as the ‘louse fly’. Even though these flies have a pair of large wings and are strong fliers, they seldom leave their hosts to which they cling by means of two strong claws at the tip of each of their six legs. The high rainfall over the past few years has perhaps become one of the reasons, that we have noticed an increase in the number of the hardy ‘cheetah flies’ on the cats that are part of our Care Centre.

 3 cheetahs in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

The Aeroplane Coalition
The Aeroplane coalition – consisting of three males, Sniper, Spitfire and Quattro and their sister Hurricane – was released from the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre into the 20 000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve at the beginning of December 2016.
Spitfire and his sister Hurricane came to AfriCat in 2009 when they were about three months old. After their mother was shot, the two cubs were caught by a farmer, where they stayed for the following three weeks before AfriCat was contacted for assistance.

 UNAM students visit AfriCat

Veterinary Students from UNAM visit AfriCat
Visit of School of Veterinary Medicine (SoVM) 3rdYear Students visiting Okonjima Nature Reserve and the AfriCat Foundation.
The Veterinary Faculty of the University of Namibia (UNAM) is now in its 5th year of existence. Every year, according to their curriculum, the students have to be exposed, shown, learn and perform certain veterinary procedural skills. All skills are inline with required ‘Day-1 competency’ expected from a newly qualified veterinarian. The AfriCat Foundation with its associated Veterinary Clinic is proud to be involved and associated with the SoVM. Last year we hosted three different classes to UNAM’s 3rd & 4th year students. This year the 3rd year veterinary students were exposed to wildlife work, all in line with the compulsory curriculum section.

 A leopard called Electra

Electra - A Leopards Story so Far ...
Electra, a female leopard in the Okonjima Nature Reserve has featured over the years in many of the newsletters on the AfriCat website. Always keeping us on our toes and surprising us over the years, her story is full of times of happiness and sadness and survival in the Namibian bush. Electra was collared in the 20,000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve on 7 May 2010, for tracking and research purposes. In the beginning she was skittish, shy of people and cars, and the guides hardly ever saw her. It was only in January 2013, since found mating with TJ and Nkosi, that Electra started to relax a bit. It could have been because both these males were so comfortable around vehicles. Electra has given birth to many cubs over the years. Unfortunately most have not survived. In April and May 2013, in the first week of August she gave birth to her first two cubs. It was our lucky guide Gideon Lisara, who caught a first glimpse of Electra and one of the cubs on 13 August. 

The Control of Cheetah Flies on Captive Carnivores
All captive carnivores at our Carnivore Care Centre were burdened with the Cheetah fly, which resulted in a drop in condition and erratic/aggressive behaviour and required urgent investigation into long-term control of the problem.
After looking at the flies’ life cycle, different options were considered to reduce the numbers, taking practicalities into consideration. The two options adopted were removing grass in holding camps, to interfere with the life cycle of the fly, and administering medication topically or orally. As there are no wild cat species-specific registered medicines available in Namibia, three commercial products (with varying treatment intervals) for the use in domesticated cats and dogs were used. Strict precautions were taken to ensure the well-being of the cats when using the medication.

 two cheetahs in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

The Saltpans
In November 2013, two young orphaned cheetahs were found and rescued from the saltpans on the outskirts of Swakopmund. Locals detected the young cheetahs and instantly informed Swakopmund’s resident veterinarians Dr Rodenwoldt (AfriCat’s resident vet) and Dr Winterbach. The cubs were no older than six to seven months and were severely dehydrated and malnourished. After 24 hours of intensive care and observation, both cats were back on their feet and started eating and drinking on their own again. The AfriCat Foundation was contacted for assistance. After a further three days, the orphaned siblings were collected and transported to the AfriCat Headquarters where they were released into a small holding enclosure for the first few days to facilitate monitoring. 

 brown hyena

Brown Hyaena Project
Behavioural ecology and management-induced niche shift of brown hyaena in a closed reserve; implications for conservation management.'
Closed reserves are an increasingly common wildlife management strategy across southern Africa.  They represent a practical solution to separate wildlife from surrounding human communities, thereby protecting both sides from threats such as human-wildlife conflict.  However, the often small size of such reserves means they can represent a threat to the survival of species within them when natural processes such as emigration, immigrations and expansions of ranges are prohibited.