Although the Cheetah Conservation Fund is currently home to 45 captive cheetahs, our organisation’s mainfocus is not keeping cheetahs in captivity. That said,when a cheetah is orphaned at a very young age, thereare no other alternatives except captivity. These cheetahs would be unable to care for themselves and learn the skills a wild cheetah needs to survive. However,CCF has shown that some of the orphan cheetahs which have had enough experience living in the wild with their mom do have a chance to return to the wild. CCF’s re-wilding programme was designed to maximise this chance and we have successfully reintroduced a number of cheetahs via this programme. At the end of June, the cheetahs we call the ‘Leopard Pen Boys’ (Omdillo, Anakin, Chester, and Obi Wan) were released into the 70,000 hectare Erindi Private Game Reserve, beginning their life anew in the wild as part of CCF’s re-wilding programme. Earlier in the spring, these four males were released in CCF’s 4,000-ha training camp and closely monitored to see if they were demonstrating adequate hunting skills and instincts to warrant release into the wild. The Leopard Pen Boys performed well in the training camp, and it was agreed they should be released when an appropriate opportunity was found.
Fortunately, Erindi Private Game Reserve agreed to provide Omdillo, Anakin, Chester and Obi Wan a new home. Erindi is already home to two of CCF’s re-wilded female cheetahs: Chanel and Hershey, released there in early January 2011. On Wednesday 27 June, the four cheetahs were darted and fitted with VHF radio collars, which will be used to track and monitor the cheetahs to ensure their continued success. The following day the cats were crated and loaded onto a truck at CCF and taken south to Erindi. After a long drive on a dusty dirt road, they arrived at the release site; an open area with large trees, a giant termite mound and a watering hole nearby. During the 14 days of the post-release monitoring, CCF’s research assistants, Ryan Sucaet and Soujanya Shrivastav, recorded the cheetahs’ positions throughout the Erindi Private Game Reserve, as they explored and marked their new territory. The re-wilding of the ‘Leopard Pen Boys’ has been successful so far. They have avoided resident male cheetahs and other predators. The next milestone in the wild would be to find females to mate with, completing the success of this re-wilding by fostering a new generation of cheetahs in the Erindi Private Game Reserve.
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