Three cheetahs poisoned

2001-11-13 13:09

Oudtshoorn - Pesticides in food appears to have caused the painful death of three prize cheetahs at one of the top breeding farms for these endangered animals.

Cango Wildlife Ranch staff was "shocked and angry" on Monday, but plans on erecting close circuit television cameras and higher fencing at a cost of about R100 000 to prevent a repeat incident.

Four cheetahs survived the poisoning.

The "breakfast" of minced donkey meat, multi vitamins and oils served to the seven cheetahs at 09:00, was the same as every other day, said manager Rob Hall.

In the busy hours afterwards, a visitor is suspected of feeding the cheetahs a lethal snack in two camps or of poisoning their drinking water.

By around 14:30 the hind legs of 7 in the group of 37, including Naf, Cuddlebum and Aurora, a nine-month-old female, appeared to be paralysed and they were struggling to breathe.

A veterinary surgeon, Dr Glen Carlisle was immediately called and they were given oxygen.

Barely an hour later Naf, Cuddlebum and Aurora died - their lungs filled with fluid, their respiratory systems collapsed and their hearts failed.

Shaka and Amber, Aurora's sister, on Monday were battling the effects of the poison tiredly, and two more have completely recovered after treatment.

"We did what we could medically," Hall said.

"We have no poison on the farm likely to have killed the animals."

It could not have been their breakfast, since all the animals were fed the same fare, but seven of them were poisoned.

"We trust the visitors and never imagined that somebody would poison the animals," said spokesperson Angela Straub.

The camp remains open to visitors.

The autopsy results are expected within days from Onderstepoort, Hall added.

The death of the three animals is a blow to the farm's breeding programme.

Many of the 100 cheetahs that have been bred at the farm, are currently living abroad.