My fight to save these beau­ti­ful cats from ex­tinc­tion

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Femail -

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.

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