Melany Melkonyan: sedated cheetah

Volunteers save a cheetah's life!

ACE volunteers on the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience had a once-in-a-lifetime experience last week!

We were on our way home from releasing the giraffe and zebra we had caught that day. It was starting to get dark and we had seen some game along the fence line. Jon jumped into his seat and told us that he had seen a leopard or a cheetah by the fence. Shannon, the assistant vet, stopped the vehicle and told us it was probably a tree.

After that we thought it was probably too good to be true, I had previously spotted a cheetah further up the fence line, but nowhere near here. However, there she was, a cheetah tangled in the fence and wrapped around a tree. So we called for Dr Kriel to come and help. By the time Dr Kriel arrived to dart the cheetah, it was completely dark. He had to dart her with a torch light on top of the dart gun!

We then untangled the wire from around her pelvis and back legs and took her to the clinic. Dr Kriel knew that if she was left there, she would be shot on-site if caught by the farmer. Luckily she wasn’t injured from the ordeal and was released onto a reserve two days later with two other male cheetahs.

Once back at the clinic the cheetah was put in a secure cage and kept for observation for two days. The cheetah was then released into a safe environment. If the volunteers had not spotted the cheetah and helped it, it would definitely have died. They quite literally saved her life!

The cheetah population of Africa, like the leopard population, is unique in the sense that the majority of these populations of animals occur mainly outside of reserves. Cheetahs are very good at being able to get through game-proof fences allowing them to roam wherever they want to. This behaviour puts them at great risk as they enter cattle ranches and farms, and although protected they are more often than not shot on site. The cheetah population of South Africa is found most commonly within the Limpopo province of the country.