AfriCat’s Annual Carnivore Health Check
Each year, the AfriCat Team including our supporting Veterinarian Dr. Mark Jago, successfully undertake a Health Check on the resident cheetah, leopard & wild dog at our Carnivore Care Centre based on Okonjima. The lions of the AfriCat North Care Centre will undergo a similar health check in June.
The 2012 AfriCat Health Check not only involved Veterinarians, but also an effective, enthusiastic support Team (boasting the new AfriCat slogan: CONSERVATION THROUGH EDUCATION) comprising family members (Tammy, Donna & Janek), AfriCat team members (Chris, Werner, Richard, Justina), tour guides, Okonjima staff members, PAWS volunteers & the chosen STEPPES DISCOVERY volunteers as well as supporters from all parts of the globe.
Apart from the regular treatment against internal parasites (in powder or fluid form in their portion of meat) and the annual rabies vaccinations (administered via pole syringe or dart), any physical examinations and surgery must be done under anaesthetic. In preparation for these examinations, certain individuals in the Care Centre are identified according to specific needs such as contraception, eye infections or abnormalities, worn or broken dentition, serious injuries and any other obvious symptoms indicating poor health, observed during our daily rounds.
Dr. Jago, an AfriCat Trustee as well as our 'go-to' Vet when expert advice is needed, together with Dr Elvira Kleber who joined us this year - kept all running smoothly, by adeptly anaesthetising nervous individuals, thoroughly examining each carnivore and whilst administering a necessary drip preventing dehydration, keenly offering information to the enthusiastic visitor who have come to AfriCat especially for this once-in-a-lifetime experience ……to see one of the Big Cats close enough to touch!
Once the selected Cheetah has been darted, the monitoring begins: the anaesthetised animal's temperature and respiration must be carefully observed, eye ointment administered and an 'Airline eye-pad' tied to its face to protect the open eyes; another group stand in wait as the vehicle arrives at the Clinic, tenderly carrying the sleeping cat to the examination table; there, another group of supporters monitor the cat's temperature and comb whilst Drs. Jago, Dr Brand & team, carry out the necessary. Vaccinations; blood sampling; administering the contraception; finally the weighing and its time to place the sleeping cat into its transport box, where it will be monitored until completely recovered.
This year, 26 Cheetah took part in the 2,5-day Health Check; five Cheetahs were returned to their new soft-release enclosure – ready for release later this month into The Okonjima 20 000 ha wilderness, where their progress in adapting to life in the bush will be regularly monitored. The remaining Cheetah were all given a clean bill of health; some will continue to be ambassadors to AfriCat at the Care Centre and a select few will be prepared for rehabilitation and the next possible release into the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
For a number of years, specialist Veterinarians have been invited to share their expertise or to contribute to valuable research during our annual health-checks.
Dr. Henk Bertschinger, a wildlife reproduction specialist based in South Africa, has supported AfriCat for 13 years already, monitoring the effects thereof (in males, measuring testicular size and sperm count) and to re-administer contraceptives in both female and male cheetah. The use of contraception, administered subcutaneously (under the skin) every 12-18 months, instead of sterilisation of these valuable carnivores, enables us to reverse the effects should individuals be rehabilitated, released into the wild and breeding be permitted. Other vets that have supported AfriCat over the years and who AfriCat has been able to assist in the work they do and the information they need to gather to research their field: Dr Gerhard Steenkamp, Dr Gary Bauer, Dr Adrian Tordiffe, Dr Remo Lobetti to name a few.
Reversible, safe contraception in captive felids at AfriCat
Feline Coronavirus in African cheetah populations
Ocular abnormalities in cheetahs at AfriCat
Efficacy of FeLV vaccination in cheetahs at AfriCat (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research [IZW]
Diet of free-ranging cheetahs in Namibia (Cheetah Research Project, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research [IZW])
Article posted: 2012-03-18 21:26:24