World First Cheetah Brothers relocated from UK to SA
Paarl and Graaff-Reinet, South Africa – January 2020: Two 2.5 year-old cheetahs from Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury will leave the park on 6th February 2020 for a new life in South Africa.
After a 6,000 mile flight, the pair will first settle in at Ashia’s Cheetah Center in South Africa’s Western Cape before eventually moving to Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve, a 14,000 hectare property in the Great Karoo. There, they will undergo a rewilding process developed and successfully applied by Ashia over the last two years. “We are delighted to welcome these cheetah brothers to our Breeding, Wilding and Release Program which is already successfully returning captive born cheetahs into the protected wild of South African game reserves and national parks. So far 9 cheetah, all born and raised in human care, have been successfully wilded and we have high hopes for these siblings!”, says Chantal Rischard, Founder of Ashia.
Mount Camdeboo is home to a few rescued, rehabilitated and endangered animals, including a bull elephant rescued by The Aspinall Foundation in partnership with the Mount Camdeboo team in October 2019, and looks forward to welcoming these cheetahs. Iain Buchanan, owner of Mount Camdeboo says, “It is an incredible privilege to be part of this landmark conservation project. To see these magnificent cheetah roaming free on Mount Camdeboo in the coming months will be one of the greatest moments in my life. I am confident that this project will pave the way for many more zoo animals to be ‘wilded’ and in so doing, contribute to the greater conservation effort which aims to increase the genetic diversity of these and many other species.”
Mount Camdeboo is playing a pivotal role for conservation in the region by creating a sanctuary for endangered species and by restoring the land to its original pristine state of wilderness.
Saba was hand-reared by Aspinall Foundation Chairman Damian Aspinall and his wife, Victoria Damian and Victoria will accompany Saba & Nairo on their journey from the UK to South Africa and will personally release them into their new home. The ground-breaking project is the first time a captive-born, hand-raised cheetah has left the UK for rewilding in Africa.
Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable by the ICUN, with less than 7,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Habitat loss, conflict with humans and increasing pressure from the illegal pet trade means that cheetah only inhabit around 10% of their historic range. Saba & Nairo’s rewilding and participation in a breeding programme will bring vital new genetics to the South African population.
A major fundraising campaign has been launched to support the move. Big cat-fans will have the opportunity to donate, adopt Saba & Nairo or purchase limited edition merchandise on The Aspinall Foundation website. All profits will go directly to the move and ongoing care and monitoring of Saba & Nairo.
Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation said: “It will be difficult to say goodbye to Saba & Nairo but finding ways to return animals to the wild is something I believe in passionately. This approach may challenge the zoo community, but it is the right thing to do and I sincerely hope more zoos around the world finally take notice and follow suit.
With fewer than 7,000 cheetah remaining in the wild, it is more important than ever to support the wild population by bringing captive bred animals back to their ancestral homes for rewilding. We at The Aspinall Foundation have proven time and time again that it can work. We have already successfully rewilded animals in Congo, Gabon, Java, South Africa, Tanzania and China.
We have selected our partners for this project very carefully and I have complete faith in the teams at Ashia and Mount Camdeboo Private Reserve, who we will work closely with every step of the way.”
Ashia, a world-class cheetah centre near Cape Town in South Africa’s Western Cape, was founded to help prevent the further decline of cheetah populations and to increase the genetic gene pool through its captive Breeding, Wilding and Release Program. Ashia is successfully returning captive born cheetahs into the protected wild of South African game reserves and national parks. The relatedness of the reserve populations is becoming an issue and preventing inbreeding without supplementation from outside will be practically impossible.
Ashia started its Breeding, Wilding and Release Program mid 2018 in cooperation with Kuzuko Lodge, a 15,000 ha private game reserve in the greater Addo area, Eastern Cape. So far 9 cheetah, all born and raised in human care, have been successfully wilded. Two females have given birth in the breeding sections and their cubs are earmarked for final release on game reserves by end of 2020. Four cheetah have already been translocated from the wilding sections to their final release destinations on pre-selected game reserves within the South African Cheetah Metapopulation, coordinated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).
Ashia will continuously rewild captive-born cheetah and release self-sustaining cats into pre-selected areas identified, inspected and approved by Ashia’s management. Whenever a cat is ready to leave the wilding program for final release, the available space in the wilding sections, either at Kuzuko or at Mount Camdeboo, is immediately used to prepare the next generation for their walk on the wild side.
The Breeding, Wilding and Release Program is financed and managed by Ashia Cheetah Conservation NPC, which is primarily funded by the founders of Ashia.
Ashia does not support any cheetah trade.
ABOUT MOUNT CAMDEBOO
Mount Camdeboo is privately owned, having been purchased by the late Logie Buchanan and his wife, Cathy in 1996. Their son, Iain and the Buchanan family have poured much love and dedication into developing this property over the years from agricultural farm land into a pristine game reserve in line with the vision to conserve the land and provide a natural habitat where wildlife, including endangered species, are able to roam freely. Now, a Big Five reserve, offering the discerning guest an authentic safari experience in arguably one of the most spectacular landscapes of Southern Africa.
ABOUT THE ASPINALL FOUNDATION
The Aspinall Foundation manages conservation projects in Congo, Gabon, Indonesia, Madagascar and Southern Africa, as well as providing financial support to various partner projects around the world.
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