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Cheetah Conservation Project: Joining forces to save the majestic African wild cat!

Cheetah Conservation Project: Joining forces to save the majestic African wild cat!

According to both parties involved, the innovative set-up is designed to lower the major threats cheetah cubs face in the wild, and considerably increase their survival rate, all the while being raised and “educated” by their mother.

 

Kuzuko, South Africa – The release of a captive-born female cheetah named Jasmin onto Kuzuko Lodge, part of the Legacy Hotels & Resorts Group, at the end of August 2018, has given birth to a pioneering conservation initiative and has marked the start of a promising partnership formed between Kuzuko Lodge and Ashia Cheetah Conservation NPO.

After initially spending some time in a boma, Jasmin was released onto a 300ha Wilding Section. This turned out to be the most perfect set-up for her fitness and hunting training as Jasmin’s instincts kicked in almost immediately. In the space of days, she made her first kill and has been successfully hunting ever since. Monitoring Jasmin’s first amazing months of wilding and successful hunting, lead to the creation of the “Cheetah Breeding, Wilding & Release Project” which is based on two main objectives.

The primary goal of the project comprises the Cheetah Breeding Project in a secure but natural environment provided on Kuzuko’s game reserve. Financed by both parties, Kuzuko started with the fencing and internal set-up of the Breeding Section in 2018. This is an area of close to 600ha where several captive-born cats are now able to hunt, mate and give birth in the wild. The predator-free area (with no lions and leopards) allows close monitoring of adult animals and pregnant females as well as their future offspring.

According to both parties involved, the innovative set-up is designed to lower the major threats cheetah cubs face in the wild, and considerably increase their survival rate, all the while being raised and “educated” by their mother. The protective instinct of the mothers should also kick in leading the cubs away from lions patrolling the fence, thus sensitising the cubs to bigger predators.

“We partnered with Kuzuko as the game reserve offers the most dedicated wildlife management under Gerhard de Lange, and a perfect set-up for captive-born and captive-raised cats to gain the necessary fitness and hunting skills for their future life in the wild. Extending the initial wilding and release concept with the breeding venture opens the door to a whole new level of conservation,” states Chantal Rischard from Ashia. 

The already existing 300ha Wilding Section where Jasmin started her walk into the wild, will furthermore be used to prepare captive-born adult or adolescent cats for their release into the protected wild of other game reserves in South Africa. Jasmin and any subsequent cat roaming this section are in good company as De Lange and his team first used it to rehabilitate Sylvester the famous run-away lion from the Karoo, who has been in residence at Kuzuko since May 2016.

Secondly, it also was the initial home for Nika and Angel, two orphan lioness cubs who were raised to be wild from a mere five months old. Both were successfully released into the reserve where they now hunt and thrive, forming a pride with Sylvester and his male counterpart Fielies (another lion on the reserve who had an uncertain future). Recently the lionesses both had cubs, sparking the conservation success story that inspired De Lange to do the same with a captive-born cheetah. He used a completely hands-off approach with these lionesses, meaning he is unable to walk with them, touch them or call them, the same approach that will be used with the cheetah who are part of the new initiative.

At this stage, the 300ha Wilding Section is home to a 5-year old male cheetah who is undergoing the wilding and fitness phase and is already hunting regularly. He is earmarked for release on a game reserve in the Eastern Cape by the middle of 2019. Kuzuko and Ashia both closely work with the management of South Africa’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project of the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust). The team at EWT assists by identifying suitable game reserves for wilded cheetah and provides invaluable advice where needed.

Kuzuko’s Breeding and Wilding Sections are at the moment home to six cheetahs, consisting of three adult females, one adult male and two adolescent siblings.

“All adult cats made their first kill a mere 6-10 days after being released onto the Wilding and Breeding Section. They are doing exceptionally well, and their personality, behaviour and physical condition changed surprisingly fast. We are in uncharted waters and may experience set-backs but we are convinced it is a very promising way to go forward in cheetah conservation,” states Gerhard de Lange from Kuzuko.


Sources: Kuzuko
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