Dubbed the ‘Kalahari siblings’, a brother and sister who were born in the wild but separated from their mother, are the first cheetahs to arrive at the home of the Community Conservation Fund Africa’s (CCFA) rewilding project. They will be fostered, while they hone their hunting skills before being rehomed. The first of, hopefully, many captive cheetahs, will join them soon to be rewilded in a natural environment, before being rehomed to a larger reserve where they can integrate with free-roaming cheetahs.
This ambitious project is centred around rewilding, not only of the land but animals and people’s hearts too. CCFA will oversee the care of the land and ecosystems, wildlife and biodiversity conservation and community-benefit partnerships. Part of restoring the biodiversity is reintroducing animals like the elephant, buffalo and rhino that have been missing from the land for 200 years. A priority remains participation and inclusion by local communities in order for them to benefit from conservation and ecotourism.
The ‘Cheetah Rewilding’ is the third of the current projects being overseen by CCFA which also includes: ‘Greening Young Futures’ and ‘Greening The Community’ – with more to follow, all aimed at creating a conservation and community legacy.
Why the Cheetah
Cheetahs live primarily in grasslands and benefit the ecosystem by keeping the animals they hunt at healthy population levels. Due to various factors including habitat loss, climate change, conflict with people and the illegal wildlife trade, cheetah numbers have plummeted with only around 7 100 in the world. Of these between 1 200 and 1 700 live in South Africa and around 600 are in captivity.
Despite their speed, which makes them formidable hunters, they are the most endangered big cat in Africa. If cheetahs no longer exist there would be a domino effect referred to as a trophic cascade, which is a powerful, indirect interaction that can impact entire ecosystems.
Working alongside dedicated conservationists, who manage a cheetah metapopulation project aimed at improving the gene pool, CCFA assists with rewilding captive cheetahs before they are moved to permanent homes in larger protected areas.
Curiously enough – Cheetahs
- Are the fastest land animal on Earth, reaching speeds of up to 75mph
- Have around 2 000 spots which they use as camouflage
- Comes from the Hindi word ‘chita’ which means ‘spotted one’
- Don’t roar but actually meow and make a variety of different sounds
- Have excellent eyesight and can spot their prey up to 5km (3 miles) away. The black tear marks (called malar stripes) that run from their eyes down the sides of their face helps attract the sun away from the eyes and stops the glaring sun from obstructing their view
- Are crepuscular hunters which means they hunt mostly early morning or late afternoon
- Only need to drink water every three or four days but can survive up to 10 days without water
- Are fairly solitary animals. Female cheetahs are mostly solo creatures, they only pair up to mate and then stay with their cubs while they raise them
- Give birth to 2-3 cubs, the gestation period is 90-95 days
- Are not natural climbers, they have non-retractable claws which gives them an advantage when it comes to speed but limits their tree-climbing abilities
- Have a lifespan of between 10 to 12 years (in the wild)
For every cheetah CCFA rewilds, a community member is selected as a ‘Cheetah Champion’. They will walk the journey ‘hand-in-paw’ with their cheetah companion and serve as a wildlife conservation ambassador within their local community.
Anele Ntshiyane (28 years old) from the nearby Kwa Nobuhle township is the project’s first Cheetah Champion. She came through the ‘Greening Young Futures’ programme – attending the CCFA’s youth development course – after which she was selected for a six-month internship and is now employed at the neighbouring, Nyosi Wildlife Reserve. Her dream is to become a safari field guide and funds raised through this project will help support her aspirations.
With a unique focus on rewilding, this CCFA project showcases how a relatively small area can be used to make a large, lasting legacy and how local communities can actively participate and directly benefit from conservation initiatives. It also works alongside and complements other CCFA projects.
Click here for more information on CCFA – the official foundation of Mantis – as well as the various projects being overseen, managed and funded by CCFA. To support the CCFA Rewilding Project and the others, click here.