The Tail of Sylvester – May 2012
It’s been a tough first year for Sylvester coming into this world not knowing who or what he really is, it’s tough for any one I guess, but for Sylvester, he was found and looked after from the moment he opened his eyes till now. When he came to the Sanctuary he was no bigger than 63cm at the shoulder, he is now over 80cm at the shoulder and weighing in at just on 55kgs! Obviously, there have been a few rough days for him but he has always overcome them and come out tops.
Before we start off the newsletter, let us not forget of course Norman and Penny English who gave him an excellent start in life, but since then, and as well as the generosity of donors, over the last year we’ve received essential support for his upkeep in the form of donated meat from Mary Linda and Ian Gloss, Victoria Falls; Karen Poole from Imbabala; Silver from Kazangula Safaris; Kevin Baisley from Matetsi Unit 3 and Graham Hingeston HHK Safaris.
It is through everyone’s kind generosity that he has become even more unique. Cheetahs haven’t had it easy for the last century, consider this stat: there once roamed 100,000 cheetahs a century ago, now today there are less than 10,000 worldwide, which is a 90% decline! In Zimbabwe, we have gone from having an estimated 1800 cheetah in the year 2000 to less than 500, that is two-thirds of the population….gone. Many aspects have affected these figures, mostly though….man and his greed, and it is only us who can make changes and help save these amazing creatures and those alike.
The task of looking after Sylvester has now fallen to Ed, Luis & Gift as Bongani goes out and assists on the Human Wildlife Conflicts in neighbouring communities. They are responsible for his feeding, exercise, care and constant companionship.
His general demeanour has suggested that he has adapted perfectly to his new environment and he clearly enjoys his daily workouts. As well as long walks in the bush he now has a specially designed ‘Cheetah lure’ similar to a greyhound racing track system, which is in his enclosure and gets to run every morning and was very kindly donated by Tauck Tours of USA. With this, we can replicate those explosive bursts of speed when hunting and give him the exercise necessary to keep him fit and lean.
But it’s not all play by any means, he has to work for his living as an ‘ambassador’ animal, interacting with the public to raise awareness of the perils and challenges cheetahs face in the wild. A large part of the Trust’s work involves finding ways to ease human/wildlife conflict and we see education as an essential part of today’s efforts to help people live in harmony with nature they are surrounded by. Only this way can we hope to protect the environment and its precious wildlife. Our educational programme includes regular visits from local school children as well as from the guests who visit the Wild Horizons Wallow. Sylvester’s upbringing makes him the perfect animal for meeting children although by no means all of them are brave enough to take up the offer of stroking him! But as we have said before, if we can get through to just one person, and let them begin to value these and other animals rather than treat them as enemies, we’ve achieved our goal.
Our latest and most exciting news is that there appear to be another three wild cheetahs around the Sanctuary property.
We’ve seen tracks, we’ve caught some on our camera traps, the scouts have sighted them whilst out patrolling the property and we even saw one while on a walk with Sylvester. We were on our way back from an interaction at the Wallow, Sylvester quite clearly sensed something was up and started to nervously look around, not 10m off to the right a cheetah stood up, looked at us, saw him and ran off into the distance, Sylvester just sat down and stayed close by. He has not been marking over any scents that he finds and is quite nervous around that area and so we feel that he may be submissive and could show that he is younger than the other cheetah, we don’t know!
September saw David Hasselhoff visit the Elephant Camp and he and his girlfriend got close and personal with Sylvester, he seemed to take well to David, but his girlfriend was a little apprehensive and he could pick up on that and each time she approached, he would growl, so she kept her distance but loved seeing the work we do with him. He was also introduced to the lure for his first time during the month and it was here where he slightly injured himself but came out of it and soon learnt exactly how to chase it and catch it.
October brought some very hot weather, but the good news was that it only took us one day to extend his enclosure to over 100m and he is the most content cheetah yet. He has also now got his own viewing platform and thatched area to keep out the sun and rain when you can’t find him, you know where to go!
November got exciting as we got to film with Jack Hanna from the series Jack Hanna “into the wild”. We went out on a walk and he was quite active around all the cameramen but soon realized that he was on film and settled down well, interacting with both Jack & Suzi (his wife). They loved every moment with Sylvester and were taken aback by the work we do.
December came along quickly and we introduced ‘whistle training’ into his everyday life, it is much like clicker training for dogs and helps to create a bridge between what is asked and his treats, he has caught on well and responds to the commands we are giving him with ease.
Sylvester’s second birthday.
April 10 is Sylvester’s second birthday and since he has been with us he has grown close to adult size, a truly magnificent animal. He loves exploring the property, is busily developing his hunting skills and seems to be a very contented cheetah. His wonderful progress is due to the generosity of some brilliant people. He forever goes from strength to strength and continues to amaze and entertain us with his intelligence and antics.He continues to cast a spell on all those who he ‘meets’ it is a true privilege to have him in our lives.
Happy Birthday Sylvester!
Happy Birthday Sylvester
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