Cheetahs to Taste Freedom

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By Wezi Tjaronda

WINDHOEK

Five cheetahs from the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) have been transferred to the NamibRand Nature Reserve for release into the wild next week.

The six-year-old male cheetahs, namely Ra, Kia, Mushara, Lindt and Cadbury, were housed in a 50-hectare camp at a lodge near Windhoek for the past three years before being transferred to a holding pen at Namib Rand where they will stay until their soft release scheduled for July 29 when the pen will be opened for the cheetahs to roam free.

CCF Executive Director, Dr Laurie Marker, said the cheetahs would be monitored closely

using radio and satellite tracking under the direction of the Cheetah Conservation Fund research staff to see if they adapt to their new environment.

This is the third project of releasing the cats into the wild. The other two releases were at CCF itself and Erindi Game Farm in Omaruru.

Marker said this is the first structured re-introduction as previous attempts to re-introduce cheetah into the area proved unsuccessful due to various reasons, including unsuitable animals and the lack of an intensive, long-term monitoring programme.

The cheetahs chosen for this release are likely to settle into the area as they are habituated and will allow access to tracking.

It is expected that the cheetahs, which have lived in a large camp and have been successful in hunting game previously, will successfully adapt to their new environment.

The NamibRand, which borders the Namibia Naukluft Park has not had cheetah for close to 30 years due to the extent of land under livestock production, which did not suit the needs of habituated cheetah.

Marker explained that of all the other predators, cheetahs are particularly vulnerable because they are daytime hunters and can be seen and hunted down easily.

However, since the establishment of the NamibRand Nature Reserve, game populations have increased substantially, providing adequate prey for the cheetah.

Nils Odendaal, Namib

Rand Chief Executive Officer, said the nature reserve is working towards having a balanced ecosystem in that animals that used to occur there naturally are now available, thus creating a holistic ecosystem and restoring the balance of the natural ecosystem.

Predators, which include cheetah, remove sick and unhealthy animals from the ecosystem and help feed birds of prey, porcupines and other smaller animals and insects.

The NamibRand Nature Reserve was established in 1984. With an area of 172?

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