Wild Cheetah reintroduced to the Free State in South Africa as part of the Cheetah Metapopulation Project

| June 26, 2013 | Reply

The Cheetah, currently classfied as Vulnerable by the IUCN is a rare and endangered large cat. It is estimated that there are fewer than 10,000 adult Cheetahs in the wild.

In South Africa less than 1,000 Cheetahs are surviving and the population has been declining. One of the problems is the isolation of populations due to human population growth and loss of habitat. This leads to many small populations distributed over many small protected areas. Those small populations are all in danger of extinction due to several factors incl:

  • Inbreeding depression.
  • Local outbreak of diseases.
  • Being killed by Lions that are also often restricted to those small reserves or have been reintroduced there.
  • Illegal persecution incl. loss due to snares.

To address this problem, the Endangered Wildlife Trust started the Cheetah Metapopulation Project in 2008. The goal of the project is “is to develop and co-ordinate a national metapopulation management plan for Cheetahs in smaller fenced reserves.”.

Small and fenced reserves will require human intervention to reintroduce predators like Cheetahs and move animals between the reserves to maintain genetic diversity.
Of course large reserves (like the Kruger National Park) are better and corridors are important for the conservation of large mammals, but this is not always doable in every place and for the Cheetah is South Africa this ambitious project may be one of the best chance the species has outside the few really large areas like the Kruger National Park.

The latest activity was reintroducing 2 male Cheetahs to the Laohu Valley Reserve in the Free State (a South African province). Later the release of a female is planned. This is the first Cheetah to be back in the Free State in more than 100 years.

More information about this particular release can be found in the press release of the EWT (PDF):
First wild Cheethat in the Free State in over a century.

More information about the Cheetah and other carnivore projects by the EWT:
Carnivore Conservation Programme

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Category: cats, conservation

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