Here at AfriCat, over the past two decades, the Rescue and Release Programme developed as a result of our relationship with the farming community. The ‘welfare’ section of the work we do and the AfriCat Carnivore Care Centre, in turn, was a by-product of the Rescue and Release Programme, when finding carnivores in captive facilities where the farmer was not able to take care of them correctly or wanted them removed from their property as soon as possible!
We currently hold 12 Cheetahs in our care that are young, fit and wild enough to be part of our Rehabilitation Project. There are, however, 16 cheetahs, (15 now without Morticia) 4 leopards and 4 lions too old or tame to go back into the wild. These individuals are going to live out their lives under the expert care of the AfriCat team and continue to be “ambassadors” for their wild counter-parts.
It is only those that are not suitable for release that have remained in AfriCat’s care.
AfriCat provides a home (min 1 ha per captive, large carnivore), food and care for over 36 animals that currently cannot be released into the wild, or who need subsidized diets while honing their skills in the Rehabilitation Reserve.
The 15 cheetahs, all rescued from commercial farmland across Namibia; 4 lions, all rescued from farmland adjacent to the Etosha National Park and 4 leopards all rescued from commercial farmland in central Namibia, are the permanent residents at AfriCat’s welfare sanctuary and are destined to remain with us for the rest of their lives as it is extremely dangerous and difficult to release hand-raised, captive, habituated big cats. Their hunting skills are instinctive, but due to captivity, they have lost their natural respect for humans and could cause loss of human life if released into the wild.
There are several reasons as to why these animals have had to remain in our care.
1. The primary one being orphaned cubs that would be dependent on their mothers for food and protection and are too young to cope on their own. These cubs have either been captured without their mothers or their mothers have been killed. Only by limiting or eliminating those factors that influence habituation and ensuring that animals retain or regain their natural fear of man, will the rehabilitated animals be able to return to the land from which they were originally removed. To ensure that orphaned large carnivores have every chance of returning to the wild, the time they spend in temporary captivity is kept to a minimum; ideally the animals should be released into the rehabilitation reserve between the ages of two years to four years, when they would have already become independent from their mothers in the wild and strong enough to fend for themselves.
2. Many of the animals that AfriCat has taken in have been in captivity elsewhere for extended periods of time; they have become habituated to people or completely tame, making most of them unsuitable for release. These animals are either no longer wanted, have become too expensive to care for, or have been confiscated by the authorities for being held illegally or with improper care.
Read more about HOW WELFARE CAN SUPPORT LONG-TERM, SUSTAINABLE CONSERVATION IF DONE CORRECTLY: