Our new cheetahs are thriving
Our new cheetahs are thriving
Two male cheetahs have found their home at Abelana Game Reserve and now that they are settled, we can share the news of their milestone release.
Part of a litter of five orphaned cubs, they were rescued and kept at Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre – De Wildt where they were cared for until they were old enough to be released. Under the watch of the Cheetah Outreach Trust, the young pair took a 6-hour journey from the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, located in the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountain range in the North-West Province of South Africa, to arrive at our reserve.
They spent a few weeks acclimatising in the holding Boma to settle in and adapt to their surroundings before they are released to run free across Abelana’s 15 000 hectares. With lions, hyenas and leopards roaming freely beyond the confines of the holding boma, the young cheetah learned awareness of the possible threats in their new home.
Once comfortably adjusted to their environment, the cheetahs were released onto the reserve to claim their rightful place in the ecosystem where they will play an important role in ensuring ecological equilibrium.
An air of excitement and anticipation filled the air at the release site as we waited for the cheetahs to take their first steps out of the boma into the wider reserve. It is a process that can’t be rushed and we quietly watched with bated breath until they ventured out of the sanctuary of the boma.
Since their release, LEO Africa – Volunteers for Wildlife and Conservation, a big five and wildlife monitoring and conservation volunteer project located at Abelana, has been following them daily. LEO Africa is the only monitoring facility on the reserve, making their work vital. They provide important information on our key species such as lion, leopard, elephant, white rhino and hyena, as well as conduct conservation work and contribute towards anti-poaching activities.
While monitoring the cheetahs, the Leo Africa team collects data on their body condition, prey preferences and movement across the reserve. The young cheetahs are in a phase of exploration of the expansive 15 000 hectares and are covering quite large distances.
The monitoring team was treated to a close-up encounter with the new residents when they found them drinking at a waterhole. To test the cheetahs’ tolerance of their presence, the team approached very slowly and carefully, leaving a good distance between the animals and their vehicle, to respect their space.
The confirmation of the two cheetahs being relaxed and comfortable with their presence came a few minutes later when they lay down about twenty metres from the vehicle. This display of relaxed behaviour offers tremendous reassurance that the cheetahs have adjusted favourably to the environment and the presence of game-drive vehicles at Abelana. Encounters such as these are also vital for the team to assess their health.
Conservation takes time, passion, and consistency
Since becoming custodians of the land in 2018, we have focused on reviving the potential of our 15 000 hectares of wilderness and restoring a haven where our wild animals can thrive, safe from poachers and hunters.
With the guidance of ecologists, we have stabilised our existing populations and we are working on increasing herd numbers to improve the genetics of our populations. Among the many species that we have supplemented are zebra, eland, tsessebe, sable and now cheetah.
Cheetahs are listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and therefore it is crucial for the growth of their population, genetic diversity, and importantly the protection of natural habitat for them to thrive.
The process of integrating them at Abelana spanned several months. Our reserve was approved by the North-West Conservation Authority as their custodians. These cheetahs are genetically important, and we hope that they will contribute towards the genetic diversity of the cheetahs in the metapopulation. Long live our cheetah!
We extend special thanks to the following people and organisations that helped make the milestone release a reality
- Deon Cilliers and Cheetah Outreach for their great work for cheetah conservation and for bringing these two cheetahs to Abelana.
- Mark Kaptein Wildlife for the sponsorship of a collar and devotion to this endangered species.
- Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre for the tender, nurturing care provided to our cheetahs as tiny cubs.
- The LEO Africa monitoring team and volunteers for the daily work in the field and unending commitment to making a real difference for conservation and these animals.