ON MY RECENT VISIT TO “THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK” I HAD THE MOST WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE VISITING THE “HOEDSPRUIT ENDANGERED SPECIES CENTRE”, ON MY WAY HOME. I WOULD REALLY LOVE TO SHARE THIS WITH ALL MY WONDERFUL FRIENDS AT REDBUBBLE!
THE AMAZING AND VERY INTERESTING STORY AND HISTORY OF “LENTE ROODE” AND THE:
HISTORY OF THE CHEETAH AND THE “HOEDSPRUIT ENDANGERED SPECIES CENTER” (H.E.S.C.)
THE HISTORY OF LENTE AND HOW IT ALL BEGAN:
HOW IT AL BEGAN
1950 Lente Roode’s father, Willie Schürmann, bought a 2000-hectare farm in the Hoedspruit district in the Northern Province of South Africa which today forms part of the Kapama Private Game Reserve (situated close to the “Kruger National Park” in South Africa).
Lente’s father generated income by farming sheep and cattle. Lions, leopards and cheetah were seen as a dire threat to livestock and were shot on sight as a result.
It was during her childhood that Lente developed a love for animals, the African bushveld, and for the farm which she visited at every opportunity. This was the beginning of a life-long passion for conservation of the cheetah, and of all animal species.
As a child of six, Lente was given an orphaned cheetah cub after a neighboring farmer shot the mother. They called her “Sebeka” and she soon became part of the Schürmann household. Together, Lente and her mother (a nurse) lovingly cared for the animal. Lente and her cheetah were inseparable.
ESTABLISHING THE HOEDSPRUIT CHEETAH PROJECT
After completing her studies in education, Lente married Johann Roode in 1970.
In 1985, Johann and Lente bought their first farm on the border of her family’s land in Hoedspruit. Lente then inherited her father’s farm. They acquired more land by buying adjoining properties and the first venture that they undertook was to ranch with a herd of Bonsmara cattle. Typical of Johann this was done with thorough attention to detail. The battle with the predators continued until it became clear that although they appeared to be winning it was likely to continue ad infinitum. At the same time Lente’s longing to be involved on the farm and her need to work with animals developed. The decision to change to game farming became inevitable. Further land was acquired and Kapama Game Reserve, 12 500 ha in extent, came into being.
As cheetahs were listed as endangered in the Red Data Book of the Mammals of South Africa, at that time the idea to establish a cheetah breeding project on Kapama developed. This facility would be tasked with breeding the species for possible reintroduction into the wild, as well as providing research opportunities to scientists in zoological and veterinary fields. It would also ultimately serve as an educational centre.
It was at this stage that Lente contacted Des Varaday (a well-known cheetah breeder whose facility was located near Middelburg in Mpumalanga Province) in the hope of acquiring a few cheetah. Lente had known Des from childhood when he used her cheetah Sebeka in his book entitled “Gara Yaka”, and as the subject matter for other detailed illustrations.
Fate is an amazing thing… Des enquired of Lente if it would be possible for her to take custody of all thirty-five of his cheetahs. His motivation was that he was getting too old to look after them, and that he needed a suitable owner to take responsibility for them.
Lente agreed. The then Department of Nature Conservation of the Transvaal facilitated the transfer of the animals from Varaday, in order for Lente Roode to continue the breeding programme on Kapama Game Reserve.
With the help and guidance of Professor David Meltzer of the Onderstepoort Faculty of Veterinary Science (at the University of Pretoria) and Des Varaday himself, they planned and developed the infrastructure of the Centre and built the Hoedspruit Cheetah Project (H.C.P) within a year.
It took another year for the animals to settle properly into their new environment before the Hoedspruit Cheetah Project opened its doors to the public in 1990. Tourism, together with sales from the curio shop, helped to generate some of the income needed to run the Project on a day to day basis.
Contact was then made with the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria to cooperate in the breeding of other species at Hoedspruit. As a result, African wild cats as well as ground hornbills and bald ibises were transferred to the H.C.P in 1991 and 1995. African wild dogs (captured as “problem animals” by conservation authorities and brought to the HCP in May 1991) were also included in the breeding programme.
In 1995, the Centre started a black-footed cat breeding programme when landowners that raised orphaned kittens contacted the HCP to take care of the animals.
During the first half of the 1990s, blue crane chicks which had been abandoned after lands were cultivated were brought to the Centre by concerned farmers. The birds were also included in the breeding programme.
The inclusion of other species into the Centre’s breeding programme necessitated the name change from the H.C.P to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (H.E.S.C).
The late Johann Roode – without whom the HESC would not have been possible
ESTABLISHING A VETERINARY FACILITY
The need for extensive veterinary support to treat animals at the H.E.S.C, as well as injured animals that were brought to the Centre for treatment, led to the establishment of a veterinary clinic with an animal hospital (housing recuperation and quarantine facilities) in 1995.
Professor David Meltzer mentored the different veterinary surgeons who have been involved at the Centre, until he eventually took permanent position as chief veterinarian and manager in 1995.
The Centre is a non−profitable organization ploughing all funds back into nature conservation in order to help ensure the continued survival of all endangered animal species. Today the Centre has established itself as one of the leaders in the breeding and research of endangered species. Besides this the Centre also provides a safe haven for orphaned and sick animals and also offers an education centre where the public and our younger generations can learn about endangered species by observing them at close range.
The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre works closely together with advisory committees of the Pretoria Zoo and the University of Pretoria.
US Friends of the HESC.
SPONSERSHIP AND FUNDING
US nonprofit organization
US Friends of Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, Inc. is a 501© (3) nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife.
Charitable contributions to U.S. Friends of Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, Inc are deductible for US Income Tax purposes, to the extent allowed by the law.
Identification nr TF 2373326
+1 212 888 6710
480 Park Ave.
If you enjoyed the history of the cheetah project and how it all began: Please visit their website at http:// www.hesc.co.za.
HISTORY OF THE CHEETAH AND THE “HOEDSPRUIT ENDANGERED SPECIES CENTER” ( H.E.S.C. )
This decline in numbers is mainly due to the fast-expanding human population that, together with agricultural development, has rapidly taken over what used to be ancient cheetah habitats. The cheetah is one of the earth’s fastest mammals and needs expanses of flatland or open plains on which to hunt and run down its prey. This flatland is coveted both by man and the cheetah.
Cheetahs are an ancient species – cheetah fossils go back some two to five million years putting them in the Pliocene Era. Ironically, they have a history of close associations with humankind, primarily in eastern countries. For example, before the species became extinct in India, cheetahs were used to hunt game. Cheetahs were trained by man for hunting as long as 3000 BC
So it is not surprising that rapidly declining cheetah numbers caused the species to be regarded as endangered as early as the 1960s. Already in the early 1970s Norman Myers reported that the cheetah was slipping towards extinction, together with some other species of wild animals in Africa, mainly due to the destruction of their habitat as result of farming practices and there was evidence that the species did not breed effectively in captivity.
Cheetahs occupy large areas in small numbers. This aspect of their behavior is still seen today in the few areas that are relatively untouched by humans. For example the number of cheetah in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, which is approximately 2 million hectares in size is estimated to be 250 – A density of approximately one animal per 8 000 hectare.
This mode of distribution evolved in this way in part because cheetahs have a severe impact upon their prey species. They feed only on fresh carcasses that they have killed and having eaten move on, perhaps only killing again two to ten days later. Their co-predators, lion and leopard, will feed on the carcass of an animal they have killed for an extended period seldom leaving much for the benefit of the hungry scavengers that share their domain.
Leopards hang their prey in trees above reach; lion prides, with a number of members, consume the entire carcass of the animal they have killed. Both of these large predators scavenge food from rotting carcasses that they find and will seize a cheetah kill if the opportunity arises. Cheetahs are killed and fed upon by both these predators.
Attempts to ensure the survival of the cheetah developed spontaneously into two broad fields of activity: one to conserve the free-ranging population and the other to breed cheetahs in captivity.
Cheetahs in South Africa are classified as vulnerable according to the IUCN Red data book.
The Red data book is published from time to time by the IUCN. It includes the regional assessment of the status of species and a classification of each into one of the following categories:
• Special cases
• Out of danger
The basis for this action is that there has been 1,4 million species of organisms, of a total estimated number of 5-80 million on earth, described to date. The estimates of the rate of extinction of the identified species are:
• during the past 600 million years <10/y;
• during 1970 – 1/day; in 1992 – 1/12min
Causes are various and include habitat destruction, exploitation, foreign invasion, pollution, global warming.
The latest assessment of the status of species in South Africa is :
Taxa that are known to have become extinct since recorded history
Taxa in danger of extinction and whose survival is unlikely if the causal factors continue operating
Taxa which are expected to move into the endangered category if the causal factors continue operating
Giant golden mole
White tailed mouse
Taxa with small populations which are not endangered or vulnerable but which are at risk.
OUT OF DANGER / INDETERMINATE
Interesting note: Taxa = plural of taxon (taxonomy = scientific naming of animals). Genus and Species. Text always in italics.
ANATOMY OF THE CHEETAH
In Hindi cheetah means “spotted one.” The base color of the upper parts of an adult is tawny to bale bluff or grayish white, and the underpants are paler, often white. The coat is marked by round or oval black spots measuring .75 to 1.5 in. in diameter. Only the white of the throat and the abdomen are unmarked with spots. The coat is coarse with the hair slightly longer at the nape than elsewhere. The last third of the tail is marked by four to six black rings and a bushy white tuft at the very end. The tail rings are distinctive on each cheetah and enable individual identification. The cheetah has a small head with short ears, high set eyes and a black line which looks like a tear drop running from the inner corner aspect of each eye down to the mouth. The teeth are small and the nasal passages are large. The body resembles that of a greyhound and is slim with very long legs. An adult cheetah measures 67 to 94 cm. tall at the shoulder, and is 121 to 150 cm. in length, with an additional 70 to 81 cm. in tail length. The cheetah male’s exhibits slight sexual dimorphism they are generally larger and more robust than the females being the larger sex. Weighing on average 5-10 kg more
The cheetah is a highly specialized animal which is capable of reaching speeds of 110-120 km/h in full sprint. It is understandably T the fastest land mammal.
The cheetah is distinguished from the leopard by its size and build.
Light build : 35 – 45 kg (female)
45 – 60 kg (male) A lot of muscle mass
Long and stream-lined bodies Shorter and stockier build
Long slim legs Large heavy bone structure
Average of 3000 solid black spots on tan fur Brown spots surrounded by incomplete circles called rosettes
Spots cover the entire body Rosettes cover their backs and sides
Prominent distinguishing features are the tear marks running from their eyes to their mouths
Adaptation of a Cheetah for speed
The cheetah’s speed allows it to hunt and to escape from danger.
It has adapted anatomically to maximize speed:
•A light skeleton not a lot of muscle (the heavier – the slower).
•Body is thin and streamlined.
•Its legs bones are longer in relation to body size than other cats.
•They run on the tips of their toes, and their spines are more flexible than other cats, allowing them to increase the size of their stride step. Their hip bones can pivot allowing them to stretch their legs further. These adaptations give the cheetah a stride of 8 meters at full speed.
•A long narrow well muscled tail helps them to maintain balance, and to steer around corners change direction sharply.
•Grooves on the cushions of their feet, as well as their claws (which are only semi-retractable) give them better grip on the ground.
As predators, they hunt for their food. Unlike many other predators, they primarily hunt during the day. The diet of Cheetahs consists of small and larger game including antelope, zebra hares and rodents
They are found on open savannah/ grassland as they need large spaces to reach their land speeds.
They are normally solitary, but will sometimes form groups among brothers. Mothers spend up to 2 years with their young.
Hunting and avoiding other predators is not an instinct for cheetahs. They are taught their skills by their mother.
Cheetahs do not make good fighters. They prefer to run from threat and are non−aggressive by nature.
The cheetah is the only predator that has not attacked humans in the wild
Females are polyestrous, with an average estrus cycle of twelve days. Ovulation takes place during 2-3 days of estrus Breeding occurs throughout the year. Gestation lasts 90 to 95 days. The litter size can be 1-8 but is usually 3-5. At birth cubs weigh 300-500 grammes. They are gray in color and have a mantle of mane-like hair along their back. It has been suggested that this mantle helps camouflage the cubs in the grass. The mantle begins to disappear at three months; Young cheetahs have longer hair on top of their necks ending in an obvious tuft over the withers. This disappears in adulthood
During their first few weeks of life the cubs are moved frequently by their mother to avoid predators. She must leave the cubs alone when she hunts, and during these times cubs often fall victim to predators. Infant mortality rates may be as high as 90%, with the majority being killed by lions.
Cubs begin to follow their mother at 6 weeks of age and are weaned at three to six months. They usually remain with their mother for 13 to 18 months. (Note: there is a misconception regarding the statement that the mother teaches the cubs to hunt. She may bring small live prey to the cubs that will play with it and when they become strong enough kill it by strangulation. Cheetah cubs, like all juvenile cats, have an innate tendency to chase and catch anything that moves, play with it and as they get older to kill it. They may learn from watching their mother hunt but teach themselves through experience. Sexual maturity is reached at 3-4 years of age.
THE KING CHEETAH
The cheetah coat is marked by round or oval black spots measuring .75 to 1.5 in. in diameter. The only exception to this is when recessive genes are inherited from both parents resulting in a more “blotchy” coat pattern. Cheetahs exhibiting this rare mutation were once thought to be a separate subspecies, but it is now known that they can appear in a litter of normal cheetahs. They are often called “The King Cheetah”.
• The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus , is the sole member of its genus – all other species have become extinct. There are 5 subspecies of cheetah in the genus Acinonyx – 4 in Africa and 1 in Iran.
• Their black tear marks are believed by some to keep the sun out of their eyes, and aid in hunting and seeing objects at a distance..
• Cheetah mothers move their cubs to a new location each day to prevent them from being killed by other predators.
• The swift cheetah was used like a hunting dog in the 16th century; huntsmen caught young cheetahs and trained them to hunt for antelope and gazelle.
• In Hindi cheetah means “spotted one.”
• The cheetah is only able to maintain its maximum speed for roughly 275 meters.
HISTORY OF THE CHEETAH AND THE “HOEDSPRUIT ENDANGERED SPECIES CENTER” (H.E.S.C.)