Cape Argus

Captive cheetah released into wild

- 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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