People from the outside may think that working with animals must be one of the best jobs one can have. We find it is not the case, it is very disturbing when an animal or bird is brought in as we know the cause is normally due to humans and the other disturbing factors is very seldom can one return them back to where they came from as the habitat for these animals are be- coming less and less and in turn, forms a ‘tug of war’ between themselves, as to who is entitled to this domain. So it is not with much excitement when we get a call especially for Cheetahs who are having one of the greatest battles to stay on the survival list in Africa.
On 18 September at approx 9h: 00 pm Brian received a call from a Ranger on a local Game Farm, informing us that he had caught a cheetah cub with a seemingly broken leg. Brian immediately set to work contacting Peter Rogers the vet regarding treatment. The ranger met Peter at his Hoedspruit practice where after his diagnosis, discovered that it had four breaks in its right front leg, and recommended the leg be plastered. This will be on for approx. 6 weeks. Once time is up the owners of the Game farm would like it to be returned to see if the cub will be accepted back.
The Moholoholo team was soon on their way to the vets to collect the baby as we preferred it to still be ‘sleepy’ for the journey here at Moholoholo before it starts to come round from the anesthetic. Once the baby cheetah arrived at Moholoholo the biggest task which faced the staff and students was to keep her stress levels down and to acclimatize her to human contact and company! Brian estimated her to be about three months old.
One of our longer term students, Abby Elliot, volunteered to take on the task of being the baby’s ‘surrogate mother’, sitting with her night and day until she felt more at ease with people. It turned out that it was not a task for the faint hearted!
Kimo, as she was later named by Abby, was not in any hurry to rid herself of her wild ways, or to forget her spotted friends. She called for her family day and night for three days solid – and if you have ever heard the excruciatingly high pitched call of a baby cheetah you will understand that we had no idea how the constant noise did not turn Abby crazy!!
It was at this time that a baby rhino was brought to the centre, and so the clinic staff and students were kept busy around the clock with the new babies! The high pitched calls of the cheetah, however, soon began to disturb the baby rhino – not to mention the staff sleeping with the animals – and so the decision was made to move Kimo to an outside enclosure which may keep things quieter for all the patients in the clinic as well as give her something more exciting to look at!
Kimo’s bed was lovingly made up for her and initially blankets were used to cover the windows so that she would be kept quiet during her introduction to her new enclosure. Almost immediately she seemed less stressed and quieter in her new home and Abby was able to sit in the enclosure with her and quietly speak to her while she settled in.
Abby’s perseverance and love of this little cat soon started to pay off, and slowly Kimo has started to allow her to stroke her with a stick and the calls are becoming less and less!
Kimo still has quite an attitude when it comes to strangers – no matter how good their intentions are towards her – but there is wonderful bond that has developed between Abby & Kimo.
Abby had desperately tried to find some things to keep Kimo stimulated. She tried plastic bottles, balls, string contraptions that she made, and eventually one day Kimo took quite a liking to a shoe! But not just any shoe, Kimo has a penchant for only one type of shoe, and so woe-betide any students which bring a pair with them….crocs!!! Fortunately day by day Kimo is growing calmer, she rarely calls in a distressed manner these days, and the evenings are spent playing with Abby and her ‘designer’ shoes!
While there is still quite a way to go for Kimo, and with her fiery temperament, we are all determined that we will add Kimo to Moholoholo’s list of success stories! And hope that one day she will be able to be released into a safe environment to raise her own little spotted ‘balls of fire’!!
We will keep you updated with her progress over the coming weeks……….