Captive-bred cheetah makes first kill
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Cape Town – The captive-bred cheetah Jasmin, donated to the Kuzuko Lodge in the Addo Elephant National Park by the non-profit organisation Ashia Cheetah Conservation, was recently released into a larger holding camp and has officially made her first kill.
The conservation team at the lodge said the kill was a critical piece of a carefully constructed conservation puzzle that brought her closer to being released into the wild.
Jasmin, who arrived at Kuzuko Lodge on August 29, was initially kept in a smaller holding boma to acclimatise, and later underwent a soft release into a 300ha camp on September 27.
She then picked up the food that had been provided to her in the boma, carried it 20m, dropped it and started looking for animals to hunt.
Kuzuko Reserve general manager Gerhard de Lange said that afternoon she was seen chasing impala and the team were surprised by her speed, as she had been raised in captivity.
“During the next couple of days she was regularly seen chasing springbok, steenbok and meerkats.
“She made her first springbok kill on October 5, a mere eight days after her release out of the holding boma.
“Unfortunately I was not on the property at the time to document it, and it was in a river line.
“Knowing that there are other animals around this area that could present a danger to people on foot, my team could not photograph it.
“But we knew that it would only be a matter of time until she killed again, and we could document it for the public to see,” De Lange added.
Last Monday, De Lange found her hunting in the north-eastern corner of her camp, but lost sight of her when she entered a densely vegetated area.
At 5pm that afternoon he decided to follow her radio collar signal and started walking in its direction when he came around a corner and there she was, on another springbok kill.
“I rushed back to the vehicle to collect camera equipment to photograph and film this milestone to share with everyone in South Africa who has been following Jasmin’s story,” he said.
With this milestone, the process of wilding Jasmin was “well and truly on track” and, according to the Kuzuko team, was going better than expected.
De Lange said while the animal still had a way to go to build her full strength, it was important to “embrace and celebrate the unbelievable success of her being able to hunt, on her own, for the first time in her life.
As a result of the speed at which she had accomplished this, she could very well join the two males out on the 15 000ha Kuzuko Reserve sooner than expected.
Ashia Cheetah Conservation co-founder Chantal Rischard said the cheetah had become Africa’s most endangered big cat.
From a count of 100 000 in 1900, the numbers had dropped to under 7 000 today.
“Ethical breeding in captivity, such as what we are working on at Ashia Cheetah Conservation, has become essential to ensure the long-term survival and viable genetic diversity of the species.
“The release of Jasmin, a captive-born cheetah, into the wild - the first of many to come for Ashia, who are now proving our efforts right through her successes - is a true win for conservation on numerous fronts.
“A large part of this achievement has been the successful collaboration between the various stakeholders involved,” she said.
More captive-born cheetahs will be released into the protected wild within selected private game reserves in South Africa, and according to Rischard, several potential game reserves have already been identified and visited by the Ashia team, and are in the process of applying for the necessary permits.
“Jasmin’s DNA, which we have on record, doesn’t have the same structure as the cheetahs in the existing meta- population, and indicates that she is in fact closely related to captive animals.
“Therefore, breeding her with existing wild males will create a diversified gene pool that can only benefit the cheetah metapopulation,” De Lange said.