Mission: Kgalagadi Cheetah Project Radio Tracking
Date: 24 August 2008
Requesting organisation: Gus Mills of the Kgalagadi Cheetah Project
Location: Kgalagadi, Northern Cape
Pilot: Barry de Groot

Barry de Groot volunteered to fly this mission for Gus Mills of the Kgalagadi Cheetah Project (and the one for the Kgalagadi Raptors, our next story, over the same weekend in late August this year).  This is the brief report by Gus Mills:

“On Monday 25 August the fourth Bateleurs Kgalagadi Cheetah Project radio tracking flight took place. This time our pilot was Barry de Groot who had flown his Cessna 172 all the way from Pietermaritzburg to help us. This trip was combined with another Bateleur mission, that of counting raptors in the Northern Cape with Abrie Maritz from the Zurich Kalahari Raptor project. Abrie has prepared a detailed report on the raptors mission, pointing out some of the serious logistic problems that were faced.

From the cheetah project point of view the flight was an unqualified success and we once again managed to track all 8 of our radio collared cheetahs (2 males and 6 females) in three hours. Although we were only able to get visuals on two of them, we were able to do so on the most important one, the female Thelma and her one year old cub, Louise. They stick to the dune areas nearly all the time and are the most elusive of our radio collared animals, so we were particularly pleased to see that the cub was still alive and with her mother.

The second most important female on whom we had hoped to get a visual was Maple. However, in spite of several low passes over the area from which the signal was strongest we failed to see her.  She is an old female and one who we have not seen since she lost her two six month old cubs to starvation in April this year. Our follow up observation on the ground confirmed our fears that she was dead. We found the badly chewed up collar and some bones in the vicinity, but are unable to be certain of the cause of her death. A sad but important observation.

As always we are indebted to The Bateleurs for their skills and much valued support for our project.  We hope very much that the logistic problems of getting fuel in drums to Twee Rivieren can be overcome as these flights are like gold to us.”