Two cheetah brothers from Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury in the UK have arrived safely in Cape Town. Saba & Niro travelled almost 10,000 km to be rewilded at Ashia’s Cheetah Centre in Paarl.
This is the first time ever captive-born, hand-raised cheetah have left the UK to be rewilded in Africa. The pair will eventually move to Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve, a 14,000 hectare property in the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. There, they will undergo a rewilding process developed over the last two years and successfully applied by the Ashia Cheetah Sanctuary.
‘Many cheetah have done a similar long journey in the past, as did the ancestors of these two cats some generations ago, with one small difference: the starting point was somewhere in Africa and at the end of their journey in Europe there wasn’t a free life waiting for them, but a captive life in a zoo,’ says Chantal Rischard, founder of Ashia.
‘Ashia is immensely proud of Damian and Victoria Aspinall for leading this project and for going through all the paperwork and financial burden to give Saba and Nairo the chance to walk on the wild side of their homeland.
‘We are relieved that these two magnificent cats have arrived safely and will give them the best (hands-off) care possible during their transition and preparation period while at Ashia,’ Rischard added.
The cheetahs are temporarily residing inside of a spacious camp and will feed off a venison-only diet, in preparation for the wild.
‘There are so many benefits on all fronts, increasing the genetic diversity of this species will mean that they have a greater chance of survival indefinitely. This is also a call to all zoos globally that it is indeed possible to rewild certain animals and that they can have an important role to play in the greater mission of conservation,’ says Iain Buchanan, owner of Mount Camdeboo.