The speed cats return to the south …


Two male and two female cheetahs from private reserves in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape were moved to the 104,000 ha Maputo Special Reserve, about 60 km north of the KwaZulu-Natal border and the resort Mozambican from Ponta do Ouro.

Formerly known as the Maputo Elephant Reserve, this vast area of ​​open grasslands, swamps and coastal lakes is also home to a large herd of elephants that grew considerably after a small herd survived poaching and hunting during the civil war in Mozambique.

Now jointly managed by the National Administration of Conservation Areas (Anac) of Mozambique and the Peace Parks Foundation, the reserve has an estimated population of around 15,000 animals, mostly antelope species.

In addition to gradually restoring natural predation to the growing herbivore population, the arrival of the four cheetahs from South Africa also offers a new dose of hope for a vulnerable predator species that has been wiped out from the sea. 90% of its old range in Africa.

After a long journey from South Africa, two of the cheetahs feed on an antelope carcass in their new home in Maputo Special Reserve in southern Mozambique. (Photo: Peace Parks Foundation)

While cheetahs can sprint over 100 km / h while hunting, those formidable bursts of speed haven’t stopped them from shrinking to around 6,600 survivors in Africa. Most live in Namibia and Botswana, but South Africa’s much smaller population has grown significantly over the past decade due to a managed metapopulation and range expansion project. by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

This project feeds several small populations of cheetahs, mainly in private game reserves, and then exchanges them regularly to increase the shrunken gene pool.

Vincent van der Merwe, coordinator of the Cheetah Range Expansion Project, says the southern African metapopulation has more than doubled since 2011 – from 217 cheetahs in 48 protected areas to 478 in 67 protected areas in South Africa, Mozambique, in Zambia and Malawi.

“The metapopulation of this network of protected areas constitutes the only growing wild cheetah population in the world,” he said.

According to the Peace Parks Foundation, the cheetahs were airlifted and road transported to a new detention boma, where they will be kept for about three weeks of acclimatization, before being released to the larger reserve.

Both males were from the & Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, while an adult female and her subadult cub were from the Waterval Private Game Reserve near Kimberley in the North Cape.

The cheetahs were donated by Ashia, a nonprofit conservation organization that works to prevent the decline of wild cheetah populations. It also covered the costs of the translocation, including transportation, vaccination, and placement of spotting collars to monitor the big cats in their new environment.

maputo cheetah reserve
Two cheetahs rush from their storage boxes in the Maputo Special Reserve. Cheetahs have been clocked at over 100 km / h in speed tests. (Photo: Peace Parks Foundation)

Mateus Mutemba, Managing Director of Anac, said in a statement: “The reintroduction of the cheetah is another historic step in conservation in Mozambique and the development of the reserve into a self-sustaining operation that generates income for the communities living in the region. region. “

With the support of the World Bank’s Mozbio program, nearly 5,000 animals, including buffaloes, giraffes, impalas, kudus, nyala, cobes, warthogs, oribi, elk, blue wildebeest and zebras, have been transferred to the Maputo reserve over the past decade.

The total number of animals is now estimated to be between 15,000 and 17,000.

Peace Parks CEO Werner Myburgh said his foundation is proud to play a role in expanding the range of cheetahs as part of its overall work to stabilize ecosystems and reintroduce carnivores to ecologically restored landscapes. .

“Not only is the Maputo Special Reserve rewilding program helping to make the reserve a world-class destination for wildlife and tourism, but restored ecosystems like these are also essential carbon sinks to help mitigate climate change. ” DM / OBP



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