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CCF’s longtime resident cheetah Merlot passed away early this May. Kate Vannelli – Assistant Studbook Keeper & Cheetah Keeper wrote a touching eulogy for this special cheetah. You can read it below:

Merlot came to CCF in August 2001 with his mother Chardonnay and sister Shiraz. All three cheetahs had been caught at a game farm outside of Okahandja about nine months before coming to CCF. Unfortunately, Chardonnay had a serious foot injury that prevented her from being able to be released back into the wild and therefore the family had to stay at CCF.

Merlot the cheetah. (Photo Credit: Kathryn Clemens)

Merlot the cheetah. (Photo Credit: Kathryn Clemens)

Merlot lived with his bonded coalition partner, Klein, most of his life. When Klein passed away, we neutered Merlot (as he was already quite old) and we let him live out the rest of his life with a couple of our older female cheetahs.

He was a very reserved and dignified cheetah. Living with Solo and Nina, two of CCFs most boisterous old females, he always stayed far away from any drama that they might be a part of. He preferred to hang back while the females bickered over food. He was truly a reserved male, always letting the females enter their feeding gate first every day without fail, following calmly behind. With his slow meandering attitude and aloof demeanor, he embodied what it means to be a cat, a true male cheetah!

Merlot. (Photo Credit: Eli Walker)

Merlot. (Photo Credit: Eli Walker)

This does not mean that he did not have a feisty side. Every once in a while he would get a look in his eye indicating that he was looking for some excitement! This usually took the form of stalking the keepers on the other side of the fence, something that he obviously quite enjoyed. Even with this relaxed and slow-moving old soul, you could never let your guard down and that’s what made him great. He kept the wild side of his nature in check, but it was always there just under his reserved and stately surface.

Merlot. (Photo Credit: Kathryn Clemens)

Merlot. (Photo Credit: Kathryn Clemens)

Merlot lived a long life for a cheetah, and he will be greatly missed. He was one of the most strikingly beautiful cheetahs at CCF, even in his old age. His face continues to grace many of the walls at the CCF centre, as he was one of our favorite models. At 16 years old, he was CCF’s oldest male cheetah.

He spent his last years of life in the company of our old and beautiful female cheetahs. He was nicknamed the ‘George Clooney’ of cheetahs, CCFs most eligible bachelor. Although Solo and Nina spend the majority of their time together, on Merlots’ last day of life Solo didn’t stray from his side once, demonstrating the bond that these cheetahs can form even in their later years, and providing him with the comfort that he needed to move on. He will be greatly missed by the many people whose lives he touched, and by the cheetahs who stayed by his side until the end.

Merlot. (Photo Credit: Bobby Bradley)

Merlot. (Photo Credit: Bobby Bradley)

(If you were one of the lucky ones that got to meet Merlot at CCF please share your story with us by emailing [email protected]. You can also make a donation to CCF in his honor. Make sure to note, in the comment section on our donate page, that you are contributing in memory of Merlot.)

This article originally appeared on CCF.

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