Cheetahs Get New Toy At Rehab Centre

By Janke Strauss
In Hoedspruit

In 2003 Kim Caldwell set foot for the first time on the grounds of the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, where she was part of a bird watching group from the San Diego Zoo. Now three years later, she's back again but this time to introduce Moholoholo to the "Lure Coursing Machine". Moholoholo is currently raising two cheetahs, Juba and Jolly, to act as ambassadors for the cheetah species.

The cheetahs are taught to be comfortable in all situations so that they can be taken to schools and interest groups to try and educate the public on the importance of conserving this endangered species. The Lure Coursing Machine will be used to exercise and train the cheetahs.

It is normally used for dog runs, but a professor later changed the device slightly to train cheetahs, using a motor car engine to obtain the speed of the cheetah. At home in San Diego Kim trains cheetahs and other animals like hyenas, and felt that this would be a perfect way for her to help out the rehabilitation centre. Moholoholo's two resident cheetahs that will be trained with the machine are still young (at less than a year old) and easy to teach.

Their "brake pads", a small piece of cushion behind their front legs is not fully developed and still very soft. When the cheetahs are fully grown, it becomes very hard and can leave deep skid marks in the ground. The Lure Coursing Machine is very satisfying to the animal, brings out their natural instincts and is good exercise. The first two years of training are very intense and there are many things to take into consideration, especially as at a young age cheetahs can be very jumpy.

Cheetahs in general are not very aggressive animals in nature and will not easily overpower a handler when on a leash. Moholoholo's cheetahs have been taught since cubs to associate different sounds with different activities, such as whistles when dinner is served and a clicker that has a very distinct sound for obedience training, so that even when there is a crowd they will still perform behaviours that they associate with each sound.

Kim stayed in contact with Moholoholo over the years and then asked of ways in which she could help. When the subject of the cheetahs came up she took it upon herself to get the Lure Coursing Machine and pay to send it to Moholoholo. She then paid her own airfare and came down for 12 days to help out with the training. She always wanted to give a donation because the project was so dear to her heart and but felt this was much better opportunity.

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