Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Boris Update

The above map shows the latest movements of our first released cheetah, Boris. Each yellow dot represents a GPS co-ordinate that his Sirtrack GPS collar has sent on a daily basis. As you can see Boris has been on the move since our last update. The big cluster of points in the bottom right of the map shows that he was quite content in this area. However, Solitaire Guest Farm's owner Walter Swartz sighted a large coalition of SEVEN cheetahs in this area and the very next day Boris had moved off North. Indicating that Boris was probably forced out of his territory by this group.  Continuing Northwards one night he even returned home and walked right through the Guest Farm itself, leaving his tracks all around our waterhole. 

Boris also moved into areas where livestock farming is prevalent causing some anxiety amongst some local farmers, however, Boris ignored the goats and sheep and instead hunted Springbok. One of his fully eaten kills was even found right behind one of the farmer's houses. Boris had done an excellent job at combating the prejudice cheetahs face by some farmers by demonstrating that given the choice, the majority of cheetah will not predate on livestock and when left undisturbed will eat as much as they can and NOT be wasteful as some will call them.

As the map shows Boris appears to have a preference for the mountain bases, which goes against what most would have expected of a lone male. However, clearly he has still to find a comfortable territory similar to that of his first couple of months and has been exploring the Namib Desert ever.  since. 

In early March Boris' points indicated that he was moving through one of our neighbors farms belonging to the Namib Naukluft Lodge. We contacted the lodge owners and they generously allowed us onto their land to track Boris on foot in the hope we could get a visual. The GPS collar around Boris's neck also transmits a VHF radio frequency to allow him to be located on the ground via radio-telemetry, in exactly the same way we did when he was undergoing his environmental adjustment period in the NCCC's 500ha soft-release camp.

So on March the 6th Kate and our volunteers went out in search of Boris. They drove to his last known position and soon picked up the 'beep' on the radio-telemetry equipment indicating the direction to go. The closer to Boris they got the louder the beep, when it was clear Boris was within a kilometere the search continued on foot so not to disturb him. The beep became louder and louder until it pointed Kate towards a medium sized bush very close to their position. Boris was hiding in it somewhere. 
The search party with binoculars and cameras at the ready began moving slowly to try and gain a better vantage point and see if Boris could be seen. But then a rustle of the bushes was quickly followed by a blur of movement as Boris had spotted the party and ran away into the distance. Somehow one of our volunteers managed to get a great shot of Boris emerging from the bush, looking lean and muscular; the perfect physique for a cheetah. 
Disturbing him was unfortunate but thankfully, once realising he was under no threat Boris stopped in his tracks, relaxed and sat in the bush only a few hundred metres away.

Seeing Boris in such good condition was great to see; proving that he is having no problem hunting in his new environment. Since that day Boris has continued moving South and is currently in the Namib Naukluft Park. Boris is doing better than we could have hoped and he has been the perfect ambassador for his species due to his behaviour whilst moving through farming areas. We are extremely proud of him! :)