Cheetah move closer to the coast

Picture 743IMG-20130925-01319

I had been aware of cheetah in the Arandis – Vergenoeg – Trekkopje area for a few years now.  In the morning hours of the 11th of April 2012 a speeding car collided with a cheetah as it tried to cross the main road at Vergenoeg, 90 km from Swakopmund and was left dead on the road.  Individual cheetah had been seen from the road to the Valencia mine, in the mountainous landscape near the Khan river.

On the afternoon of 25th of September we witnessed a real good rain shower over the area around Rössing mountain, about 40 km inland from Swakopmund.

A mere few days later, on the 28th of September, as we were returning towards town from a tour we caught a moment’s glimpse of two cheetah running up a valley, not far from Goanikontes.
I have to admit, we must have been chatting about some serious stuff and I had already driven past, when I  stopped the Land Rover abruptly and told everyone to get their cameras ready.
Instantly.  And I would have been a bit loud at that.
I backed up about 30 meters and there on our left, not even 15 meters from the track, two cheetah had just abandoned their kill and were now headed for the hills.
Obviously we were a bit to hurried.

A split-second sighting of cheetah, end of September
A split-second sighting of cheetah, end of September

A springbok had been killed moments before us arriving and the cheetah had just started ripping it open.
We left after a short while, of course hoping that the cheetah would at least return after our departure to ‘finish their meal’.
Driving back  to town, I  was thinking, once again:
No photograph of an animal could ever be of greater value than the life of the same animal in its own wild natural habitat.”
Though, I must admit that I was just too inquisitive to find out if the cheetah had returned, so I went back late the next afternoon, and indeed,
the last bone had been licked clean.

Photo C van Rooyen
Photo C van Rooyen

A month later, above photograph was circulating on facebook. These two cheetah were seen late in October, crossing the B2 tar road about 30 km east of Swakopmund.
In the following weeks several other people had brief sightings of cheetah in the area.

http://www.az.com.na/natur-umwelt/ausgehungerte-geparde-bei-salzfeldern-gefangen.414498
http://www.az.com.na/natur-umwelt/ausgehungerte-geparde-bei-salzfeldern-gefangen.414498

Once again, a month later, workers at the salt pans outside Swakopmund captured two young starved and thirsty cheetah cubs.  They were treated by the local vet and eventually taken to Okonjima / Africat foundation near Otjiwarongo. On the picture above the veterinarian’s children with the cheetah cubs. They were estimated to be 6 months old.

cheetah
Newspaper clipping relating yet another sighting near the Goanikontes turn-off from the B2.

springbok

Over the weeks I kept seeing remains like in the picture above and was thinking that these could only have been killed and gobbled by cheetah.
With plenty grass in some areas even Mountain zebra were drawn into areas where they hadn’t been seen for close to twenty years.

Then on the 19th of January, a Sunday, and I had a group of four Roman Catholic padre’s in the car:
Suddenly two animals  moving ahead, to the left of the small road. Then they’re gone behind some large boulders. “There, what are they…?
Wait let’s carefully, slowly try and get a little bit closer.  Get your cameras ready, open the windows on the left side of the car.”
Crawl forward in slow gear.
“Keep calm. Don’t get too excited.
Yes!  Indeed they are!  Cheetah!! ”

They were staring at us for quite a while, but couldn’t be bothered too much. Like a staring competition almost.  I am fiddling with the settings on the camera.
Slowly, very slowly with their long slender legs,  they climbed up the little saddle on the ridge.
Stealthy feline movements.  Just when I thought they would finally disappear behind the hill, the one on the right sits down, ever so elegantly, turning around, not really making eye contact with us.
When I start the car, “Let’s go, let’s move on. Let them be.  We won’t get it any better, even if we drove around, 2 minutes, to catch them on the other side of the hill.”
So beautiful!
“Just let ’em be!”

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For so many years I had been telling tourists that the springbok, occasional Kudu, the ostrich “must have had karma credit points in their previous life time.” 
“As a reward they got sent to the desert, you see; here they don’t have to fear anyone.
Because no predators could survive here …..”

I had to re-think that one.
Probably cats have karma too ….

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