The fastest land animal on the planet is the cheetah, but even a cheetah must stop to get weighed. At ZA Cheetah Conservation in Bela Bela, Limpopo, South Africa, the cheetahs stop on one of Adam Equipment’s models for their weigh-ins.
Ute Vierling, ZA Cheetah Conservation’s director, described the importance of weighing the facility’s animals as part of their overall health. “Weighing the animals, in particular, the cheetahs,” said Vierling, “is super important as it can tell us if there are any underlying medical conditions prior to any visible signs being observed.” Their weights – which also affect dosing of any anaesthetics or medication – are often recorded monthly to provide a continuing overview of each animal’s health. Those with special care needs are weighed more often. Baby scales are used for smaller animals and babies to monitor their growth.
Maintaining the health of its cheetahs goes far beyond the care of the individual animals: in 2016, the global cheetah population was estimated at approximately 7,100 animals, which makes them the most endangered big cat in Africa. As Vierling said, “understanding their needs, behaviour and instincts plays a key role in saving animals from extinction.”
To help maintain its animal population, ZA Cheetah Conservation currently uses a CPWplus 150L to weigh their animals. In addition to cheetahs, the conservation is also home to a variety of leopards, lions, Siberian tigers, wolves, Bat-eared foxes and other rescue animals.
The CPWplus 150L scale – with a display hold feature to freeze the displayed weight – offers a capacity of 150kg with a readability of 0.05kg. The 900 x 600mm pan accommodates larger animals like those at the conservation. The internal rechargeable battery allows the facility’s staff to bring the scale to the animals, rather than having to sedate the animal and bring it to the scale in a veterinary office or other location.
The conservation has a history with Adam products, including at its vet clinic in Bloemfontein before moving to its current location in Bela Bela. Vierling praised the CPWplus as “very accurate, easy to use and carry around to the enclosures and very reliable.”
Vierling also talked about the variety of ways scales are used at the facility. In addition to weighing the facility’s cheetahs, leopards, wolves and smaller cats (including caracals and servals), “we also weigh the food and supplements on a daily basis to make sure every animal gets the right amount.” v
The facility also uses the scales to weigh their animals’ food – including zebra and antelope carcasses – to verify that it’s received the proper amount of meat from vendors, based on the price per kilogram.
While care of its animals is of paramount importance at ZA Cheetah Conservation, the organization’s mission, said Vierling, is “to raise awareness of the vulnerability of South African species and other endangered species through educational experiences, as well as ethically breeding cheetahs in captivity.” Using DNA samples taken from their Cheetahs, the conservation works with other ethical and responsible projects to maintain genetic diversity and ensure the survival of the species.
Long-term, the organization’s goal is to release some of its animals into a protected, yet self-sustaining natural habitat where animals may live free while still being monitored by researchers and medical experts.
ZA Cheetah Conservation offers a wide range of volunteer, internship and research programs, which together have attracted more than 1,000 people from 33 countries to become part of the Cheetah Experience Global Volunteer Family and contribute to conservation in South Africa.