AfriCat’s Cheetah Rehabilitation project was initiated to give some of our captive cheetahs an opportunity to return to their natural environment. Although hunting in carnivores is instinctive, many of the cheetahs at AfriCat lack experience due to being orphaned or removed from the wild at an early age. This inexperience, as well as their conditioning to captivity, makes these animals unsuitable for release on farmland. The cheetahs (usually a coalition of brothers and sisters) are fitted with radio-collars before their release into the 20 000ha Nature Reserve so that their welfare and progress can be closely monitored. Rehabilitated cheetahs are not released on farmland.
Besides giving the cheetahs a chance to return to the wild, the success of this project provides other substantial benefits:
It gives us the opportunity to assess whether rehabilitation is a successful means of conserving an endangered population and it also allows for the number of cheetahs in captivity to be reduced.
The 4,500-hectare TUSK Cheetah Rehabilitation Camp was completed towards the end of 1999 and stocked with game by mid 2000. Our first cheetahs, 3 orphan sibling males, who had been with us since they were two months old, were released into the rehabilitation area in November 2000. These cheetahs were monitored daily and despite having no hunting experience were successful in sustaining themselves almost within 2 months with hunts that included kudu, impala, scrub hares, hartebeest, zebra, steenbok and duiker.
Between 2000 and 2008 another 8 cheetah were rehabilitated.
2010 another 17 cheetahs got the chance to run wild in the newly constructed 20 000ha Okonjima Nature Reserve.
The sad and unfortunate death of some of our cats does not detract from the overall goal of the project – orphaned cheetahs had the instinct to hunt and were able to sustain themselves. Guests can participate in the ‘tracking’ of the rehabilitated cheetahs on our “Cheetah Tracking Trail”.
Important note: The 20 000ha Okonjima, Private Nature Reserve provides orphaned cheetahs with the opportunity to hone their hunting skills and become self-sustaining – thereby giving them a chance to return to the wild!