SANParks Veterinarian, Dr David Zimmermann with the re-collared cheetah, known as CJ. Photo Credit: SANParks

CJ the Cheetah has received a new tracking collar as hers was nearing the end of its use; now the team can continue monitoring her movements.


Eastern Cape, South Africa (03 May 2024) – Cheetah conservation in Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP) outside Cradock in the Eastern Cape got a welcomed boost through a donation of a cheetah collar that was fitted to one of the Park’s resident females. The collar fitted previously was about to reach the end of its life span.

MZNP is currently home to eight cheetahs. Of these, four are collared. MZNP is the only national park offering a cheetah tracking activity, and these cheetahs are the ones which are sought out by activity guides through the use of a VHF telemetry device. If guests are lucky enough, they could get to within 40 metres of one or more cheetahs in their natural habitat. They also help Park Management gather ecological data for research purposes which help in the management of the species.

MZNP first reintroduced cheetah in 2007 with two females from the nearby Samara Game Reserve. This was after being absent from the plains of the Karoo for 130 years. It is South African National Parks (SANParks) policy to reintroduce wildlife species which would have occurred in an area before hunting or habitat loss forced them to local extinction in earlier centuries. Two males were introduced not long after to form a breeding population.

With growing cheetah populations in confined fenced reserves across South Africa it was decided that a human-mediated metapopulation approach was required to help maintain the genetic and demographic integrity of these isolated populations and ensure their longevity and conservation value. In 2011 the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) developed the Cheetah Metapopulation Project, now known as the Cheetah Range Expansion Project, to do just this.

MZNP has been an important part of this project since its inception. After reintroduction, the cheetah population in the park quickly boomed, with the lack of competing predators (lions were only introduced in 2013). As such, there was a great need to prevent inbreeding in this population. In 2010 and 2011 a total of 13 cheetah that had been born in the park were relocated to other reserves.

The latest fitted collar is donated by avid and regular visitors to the Park, Anthony and Martine Armstrong and their family from the Western Cape. This intervention is expected to further support the successful rollout of a cheetah population management solution implemented at MZNP.

Mountain Zebra National Park has been an important contributor to Southern Africa’s cheetah conservation efforts. Overall, it has contributed 35 cheetah to the greater cheetah metapopulation, including to important range expansion projects within Southern Africa – with cheetah going as far as Malawi and Zambia.

All cheetah that are removed from and brought into Mountain Zebra National Park are done so strategically with consultation amongst the EWT, Park Management and SANParks’ ecologists. This ensures that genetic and demographic integrity of the respective populations are maintained, thus ensuring the conservation value of this population.

Sources: SANParks – Supplied
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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