The Endangered Wildlife Trust and the cheetah meta-population range expansion project is all about increasing genetic diversity into populations of free roaming cheetah. This is critical, as their genetic diversity went through a “bottle neck” a few thousand years ago almost all cheetah were wiped out. We are not sure of the cause, but all of Africa’s cheetah nearly went extinct before we could even properly classify them… The current existing population was descended only from a few remaining individuals. Luckily they soldiered through and we are now able to experience the sheer beauty and wonder of nature that they are. However, their continued survival and genetic diversity is not as easily as simply just overcoming it… It in theist, Africa’s wide open spaces allowed natural movement form hundreds and thousands of Kilometres and cheetah could freely go where they please. Now, we have fences, roads, cities and numerous boundaries for this to happen. If we want to continue to see cheetah in the wild places of the world, we have to provide assistance and help with their breeding and genetic coupling.
Recently Chris was asked to help to assist some industry professionals in one such project. Three sub – adult cheetah were being transferred from a reserve in the Eastern Cape to Phinda Private Game Reserve in KZN. It was a long journey, so to sedate them for this extended time period is not safe. The predator safe crates are the best to use, and once loaded, we continued on our way… “It always feels quite bizarre when you are driving down a high way at 100kph, and you realise the creature sitting inches behind you can run that fast… and hunt at that speed. I turned around at this thought and got a quizzical angry cheetah eyeball staring straight back at me through one of the vent holes. A very enlightening experience.”
It was an intensely hot day and luckily we made good time and reached Phinda in the required time frame. Once the crates were offloaded, we opened them up and they bolted out into their holding bomb. A bit dishevelled and grumpy, they settled down to a meal and a long drink of water. They were to be there for a month or two to acclimate and have the relevant tests done, and once this was complete, they would be released.
We are happy to say that the cheetah were released and are doing well on Phinda. It is always a pleasure to be involved in such projects and to help other NPO’s continue to do such great work with passion.