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22 Travel Namibia Moro >> News · views · people · places · conservation · community · wildlife · culture GREEN ALLIANCE Olivier Houalet roams with his cats before their release into the wild A documentantantary about the release of a group of cheetahs on to the NamibRand is being screened on Channel Five. The programme follows Olivier Houalet of Amani Lodge and his relationship with the five orphaned cheetahs that he reared by hand. Along the way he developed a strong bond with them. He knew their individual markings, their personalities, their strengths and their weaknesses. He also knew that it was time the cats were released back into the wild. The even harsher reality was that Olivier knew he could be sending his beloved cheetahs to their death. The programme follows the cheetahs as they are drugged, fitted with radio collars and taken by road to the reserve. Will they all survive? It is emotional for Olivier as he lets them go but, as a fierce believer in conservation, he knows they must be free. The Cheetah Whisperer is due to be screened this autumn. Maya the mountain zebra has been raised by hand at Rostock Ritz Lodge on the border of the Namib Naukluft Park. And nobody has been more interested in her progress than Rocky the resident Weimaraner dog, who has insisted on turning vegetarian to encourage Maya to eat her greens. The C heetah Whisperer Tern around Until recently, off- road driving between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay was threatening the breeding grounds of one of Namibia's endemic seabirds – the Damara tern. Now a stretch of wire rope has been strung across the dune side of the road between the towns and driving beyond this barrier is forbidden. It is hoped numbers of the birds will start to increase again. The total population of the species is estimated at 14,000, and approximately 98% nest along the Namibian coast, making conservation vital. Other breeding sites have been recorded in South Africa and Angola. Although it is known to wade, the Damara tern does not swim but tends to fly above the ocean, diving or skimming for fish. It feeds nocturnally using excellent night vision, as this is the time when its prey comes to the surface of the water. The Damara tern is monogamous; it mates for life with a single bird. It builds its nest on the ground using twigs, straw and leaves, and it is this that has made it vulnerable to being squashed by off- road vehicles. n For more information go to www. tour. brief. com mola mola ROSTOCK RITZ Maya the mountain zebra meets Rocky D amara Tern

from a farm near Okahandja. It consists of twelve young animals and twenty- four adults – six of which are bulls, an ideal ratio for breeding. The wildebeest are likely to roam the plain east of the road to Fish River Canyon. In future they can probably be observed at the watering place close to that road. The turn- off is marked clearly. Two years ago Burchell's zebra and hartebeest were also released in Gondwana Cañon Park. They have already had offspring several times. Park management includes monitoring flora and fauna at regular intervals and, despite the meagre rainy season in 2007, the number of springbok has also increased considerably. According to a 2008 game count there are now 4600 springbok, compared to 3800 last year. For the first time in decades a herd of blue wildebeest is galloping across the plains of Gondwana Cañon Park east of the Fish River Canyon, writes Sven- Eric Kanzler. Thirty- six blue wildebeest were released there in early June as part Wildebeest return to Namibia's Southof a programme to reintroduce game species which used to be indigenous to Namibia's south. Blue wildebeest as well as giraffe and elephant were shot to extinction in the area in the 19th century. The herd of blue wildebeest came Travel Namibia 23 I get up before dawn and head off to meet my guests over a breakfast of muffins and coffee. We are heading out into the 4500- hectare Cheetah Rehabilitation Park. The sunrise is stunning and everyone is excited about the prospect of a tracking adventure on foot in search of two of the rehabilitated cheetah, Miny and Mo. These cats are radio- collared so that their progress can be monitored and researched. They were orphaned at an early age and have had to hone their skills and learn how to hunt again through trial and error. Once we enter the Park, we have the radio receiver connected and I start to scan the area. Half an hour later I pick up a faint signal on the two brothers, Miny & Mo, who are often seen together. Eventually a louder signal is heard and I stop the game- viewer. I give my guests a safety speech, gather up my equipment, and we head off on foot. A few minutes later we come across giraffe. Eventually the tracker signal gets louder and within a flash we spot Mo stalking a young gemsbok. I signal to my guests to stop and watch the beauty of the quickest mammal on earth. Suddenly the chase is on and all we see is a cloud of dust. Within about twenty seconds we hear the cries of a kill. Miny starts walking in our direction but I put my guests at ease so that they don't panic. It's just a mock charge. Miny stops and walks back to join his brother. After watching the choke- hold for about twenty minutes, the cats start to feast on the inner upper legs. After a while, we return to the vehicle for we don't wish to disturb them. " Wow, what a great treat for us," one of my client's whispers in my ear. " For sure. Especially for it to happen in front of our eyes," I reply. We chat away, savouring the moment we have just experienced. This kind of luck does not often happen. The cats are usually so fast and the bush is so thick that most of the time we hear the kill, but do not witness it. I always enjoy these ' bush- moments' but it's also a pleasure to give the guests the opportunity to experience the excitement of watching these amazing predators hunt in their natural environment. The greatest thing of all, however, is that, through this rehabilitation programme, the cats have been given the opportunity to learn to hunt on their own. AfriCat tracker A day in the life of an... T here are so many cheetahs in Namibia that some people view them as vermin, killing them when they prey on their livestock. Since 1991 the AfriCat Foundation has rescued many of these cats, rehoming them or releasing them in the vast grounds of Okonjima Lodge. Senior Okonjima guide Dean Mafika describes how he tracks two cheetah brothers. GONDWANA COLLECTION T he relocated blue wildebeest