I was waiting to write this until I had an ending to the story, but I don't yet and don't know when I will, so here's what's been going on the past six days.
Pride, the star of Harnas, the face of the mission of Harnas, has gone missing. She lives in the lifeline with her two cubs, and Erin, the research person here at Harnas, goes out to find her every day to make sure she's hunting and taking care of her cubs. Pride was the first success story here--hand raised but now living the life of a real cheetah, hunting, bearing cubs, etc. She's one of the two cheetahs that I slept out with, the reason why I have a cheetah paw tattoo on the inside of my right wrist.
Six days ago, I went with Erin out to check on her, but we couldn't find her signal. We saw the 4 wild dogs out there, and the two cheetah brothers--Max and Mauritz--but we couldn't find Pride. We went out again that afternoon and scanned the entire 30 square miles that is the Lifeline area. We went out the next day and the next, driving around with volunteers on the roof of the truck, scanning and calling for her. Day 2 and 3 passed and we suspected that her radio collar had somehow gotten destroyed. We looked for tracks and found some but weren't sure if they were hers. Day 4 and 5 we intensified the search, using all 40 of the volunteers to walk through the bush, looking for her in suspected areas. Some days we were out there for 11 hours, until the sun set and we were forced to give up.
So it's day 6 and we still haven't found her. Erin is very frustrated: Pride is her "baby" and she's worried about the cubs, Merci and Denga. All we can do now is wait and hope she wanders out to the road when she hears the truck. Despite living the wild life now and hunting on her own, she still comes to humans when they arrive, purring and waiting to be petted, so we continue to call for her to come. She's amazing and all of us are worried. I'll keep you up to date.
One other notes on the lighter side: our Christmas tree--not the kind you'll see anywhere else, but very African, is set up by the lapa. All the decorations are like big toys for the baby baboons, and we spend most of our time at meal time chasing them away from the decorations. Most of the ornaments have been converted to "balls" for them to play with, and the tree is a haven for them to sit in. Look carefully in this picture and you'll see one on the branches. Christmas at Harnas!