Cap­tive chee­tah re­leased into wild

Cape Argus - - OPINION - Staff Reporter

ASHIA Chee­tah Con­ser­va­tion has ac­com­plished the first phase of the re­lease of a 4-year-old cap­tive-born chee­tah named Jas­min into the pro­tected wild. The non-profit com­pany was set up to fi­nance and man­age the re­lease pro­gramme of Ashia, a new world-class sanc­tu­ary out­side Paarl.

Ashia’s first re­lease took place at Kuzuko Lodge. Jas­min grew up at Ashia’s part­ner project Chee­tah Ex­pe­ri­ence Bloem­fontein.

Co-founder at Ashia Chan­tal Ris­chard said: “The chee­tah has be­come Africa’s most en­dan­gered big cat. From a count of 100 000 in 1900, the num­bers have dropped to un­der 7 000 to­day.

“Eth­i­cal breed­ing in cap­tiv­ity has be­come es­sen­tial to en­sure the long-term sur­vival and vi­able ge­netic di­ver­sity of the species. The re­lease of a cap­tive-born chee­tah into the wild – the first of many to come from Ashia – is a true win for con­ser­va­tion on nu­mer­ous fronts.”

Af­ter ini­tial vis­its to Kuzuko Lodge and dis­cus­sions with its re­serve gen­eral man­ager, Ger­hard de Lange, it was found that this pri­vate game re­serve in the Eastern Cape would be the ideal lo­ca­tion for the first re­lease of an Ashia chee­tah into a pro­tected wild area.

Jas­min, the first fe­line to be the cho­sen for the Chee­tah Re­lease Pro­gramme, made her way to her new home af­ter a smooth and un­event­ful seven-hour drive from Chee­tah Ex­pe­ri­ence Bloem­fontein, which has been her home for the past four years. On her ar­rival at Kuzuko Lodge she was re­leased into a boma, a spe­cial en­clo­sure which will be her ini­tial home for a short pe­riod; here she will be en­cour­aged to ac­cli­ma­tise to her new sur­round­ings.

From here, Jas­min will be re­leased into a larger 300ha en­clo­sure, the next step in her rein­te­gra­tion be­fore her even­tual re­lease into the ex­panse of the 15 000ha re­serve. Feisty and in­de­pen­dent, Jas­min has set­tled in well so far and will soon be in­tro­duced to the other two res­i­dent male chee­tahs on the re­serve.

“There are a num­ber of fac­tors to con­sider when ‘wild­ing’ a chee­tah born in cap­tiv­ity. Firstly, they need to have the right fight and flight re­sponses, which can be ev­i­denced in the way they feed and how they en­gage with peo­ple,” said De Lange

“Jas­min ticked all the boxes and in her short time in the boma, she is al­ready ex­hibit­ing nu­mer­ous traits that we be­lieve will as­sist her smooth tran­si­tion into the greater Kuzuko re­serve.” |

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