The story of a Kgalagadi cheetah
The Auob river in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is perhaps the finest place in the world to see cheetahs, says Gus Mills…and it is one of the best places to see them hunting.
Gus Mills is a Research Fellow for the Lewis Foundation, South Africa
Our most popular blog last month was the cheetah hunting sequence submitted by Mike Fullerton. Here is some more background on Lisette, sourced from the Kgalagadi Cheetah Project Progress Reports by Gus and Margie Mills:
"In late October 2005, about 6 months before we started the cheetah study, a female cheetah with four large cubs ran into the fence at Mata Mata. She broke her back in the accident and had to be put down. Fortunately at the time the springbok were dropping lambs and so the four cubs survived.
"Our April 2006 report states that we regularly see Lisette, a young female who moves in the central and northern Auob between Mata Mata and Auchterlonie. When we collared her – the first female to be collared – she had what we presumed to be a single large female cub, Elena, who left her shortly afterwards to start her own independent life.
"In late 2008 we received some photos of cheetahs taken in early 2006. They were the four cubs of the Mata Mata female and we were very surprised to learn, by matching the spot patterns, that two of them were Lisette and Elena. So we were wrong, they are not mother and daughter, but sisters. We also learnt that the first cheetah we photographed on the project, a male, was the third cub and have also received photos of the fourth cub which was another female.
"We have not received photos of these two for several years, but Lisette and Elena are probably the best known cheetahs in the KTP as they regularly hunt springbok in the Auob. Lisette’s 2008 litter disappeared very quickly, but in early 2009 she gave birth to three more. One disappeared when it was about three months old, but the other two, both females, were raised.
"In spite of the fact that Lisette is radio collared, we sometimes go several weeks without finding her as she ranges widely. In August 2007 we collared Elena. Six weeks later she gave birth to her first litter of four cubs. She managed to raise them through the eight week denning period in spite of the fact that she was not able to find much to eat and existed mainly on hares. However, once they started moving with her and their demand for meat increased she seemed to not be able to provide enough food for the cubs. Over a six week period, one by one, she lost three cubs. We believe that they were unable to keep up with her as she had to keep moving to find food, and so either died of starvation, or were picked up by predators. The remaining male cub, Anton, fared well."
Kgalagadi cheetah – a new mom!
This lovely photo of stalwart Lisette was posted on 7 March 2011, one day after she gave birth. Willie van Schalkwyk and his father-in-law spotted Lisette a day after her transmitter failed. When Gus and Margie last saw her two days before that, she was still pregnant. As a result of the failure, they did not know where her cubs were. Gus and Margie could confirm that it was indeed Lisette drinking water from a pool by the roadside.
Picture by Willie van Schalkwyk
In order to expand their photographic data base, Gus and Margie Mills need as many photographs of cheetahs as possible. They ask all visitors to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to send suitable photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sideways on photos of a standing animal are the best for ID and they would appreciate information on the number of cheetahs seen, the date and location.
Researcher Gus Mills, photographed in the Kgalagadi with one of the cheetahs he studies.
Posted on: November 21, 2012, 4:03 AM