Two two-and-a-half year-old cheetahs from Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury in the UK will depart for a new life in South Africa on 6 February 2020.
This ground-breaking project is the first time captive-born, hand-raised cheetah has left the United Kingdom for rewilding in Africa.
After a nearly 10,000-kilometre flight, the pair will first settle in at Ashia’s Cheetah Sanctuary in the Western Cape before moving 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.
‘We are delighted to welcome these cheetah brothers to our breeding, wilding and release programme which is already successfully returning captive-born cheetahs into the protected wild of South African game reserves and national parks. So far 9 cheetah, all born and raised in human care, have been successfully wilded and we have high hopes for these siblings,’ says Ashia founder Chantal Rischard.
Mount Camdeboo is home to a few rescued, rehabilitated and endangered animals, including a bull elephant rescued by The Aspinall Foundation in partnership with Mount Camdeboo in October 2019.
Iain Buchanan, owner of Mount Camdeboo says: ‘It is an incredible privilege to be part of this landmark conservation project. To see these magnificent cheetah roaming free on Mount Camdeboo in the coming months will be one of the greatest moments in my life. I am confident that this project will pave the way for many more zoo animals to be ‘wilded’ and in so doing, contribute to the greater conservation effort which aims to increase the genetic diversity of these and many other species.’
Saba was hand-reared by Aspinall Foundation Chairman Damian Aspinall and his wife, Victoria. The Aspinalls will accompany Saba and Nairo on their journey from the UK to South Africa and will personally release them into their new home.
A fundraising campaign has been launched to support their move. Big cat-fans will have the opportunity to donate, adopt Saba & Nairo or purchase limited edition merchandise on The Aspinall Foundation website. All profits will go directly to the move and ongoing care and monitoring of Saba & Nairo.
Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, with less than 7,000 individuals remaining in the wild. Habitat loss, conflict with humans and increasing pressure from the illegal pet trade means that cheetah only inhabit around 10% of their historic range.