My fight to save these beautiful cats from extinction
DURING the 20th Century, the world population of cheetahs in the wild was reduced by a horrifying 90 per cent. Today there are only about 7,100, with a further 1,700 or so living in some form of captivity.
This is as a result of habitat loss, attacks by lions and leopards, poaching, disease (often a consequence of their limited gene pool), scarcity of game for the cheetahs to hunt and angry farmers who shoot them as pests when they are found harassing livestock.
About 20 years ago, I was approached to help promote a centre for endangered species, predominantly cheetahs. How could I resist?
So began my association with Lente Roode and the cheetahs she has bred so successfully at her Endangered Species Centre at Kapama in South Africa, from where they are released into the wild.
I am also the Royal Patron of the Cheetah Conservation
‘Our plans were hit by a terrible blow’
Fund in Namibia. Each year I visit both cheetah conservation centres.
It has long been my cherished dream to bring some of the cheetahs bred at Lente Roode’s Centre in South Africa to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.
The idea danced about in my mind for years and I made contact with various people who could help with their transportation.
Then the blow fell – a resurgence of the old military conflict between Renamo and Frelimo, the two opposing political parties engaged in Mozambique’s civil war which ended in 1997.
Worse, I have learnt that Mount Gorongosa is the insurgents’ base. It’s not a safe area, then, in which to release Kapama’s precious cheetahs.
So that must now be my quest – to find somewhere safe to release cheetahs in Africa where they can prosper and repopulate the countryside they once occupied.
With so many native species declining in nature, I will pledge my continuing efforts to try to help this elegant, unique species to survive.