2 young cheetah males set for Rietvlei reserve
Pretoria - Fans of the Rietvlei nature reserve in Pretoria can look forward to the addition of two male sub-adult cheetahs this spring.
The brothers come from a family at the Welgevonden Reserve in Limpopo and will take a six-month break at Rietvlei from around mid-August before leaving the country for reserves in Mozambique and Zambia in February next year.
According to Vincent van der Merwe, co-ordinator of the Endangered Species Trust's (EWT) cheetah unit, work to get the necessary permits is ongoing. They will have to be ratified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) which will then issue permits in terms of export quotas and must wait for level 1 of lockdown before they can be moved out the country.
Cites lists cheetah as a vulnerable species, “with a declining extant population of less than 7 000 individuals found primarily in the savannahs of Africa”.
Rietvlei was chosen because there is no predator threat and it is close to OR Tambo International Airport for when they can be moved. They will be released at Rietvlei and kept initially in a boma to acclimatise before being released into the reserve – probably by September.
The cheetah are part of the (EWT) cheetah expansion project that resettles cheetahs in other parts of the country or the continent.
Last month, uMkhuze at iSimangaliso Wetland Park welcomed two cheetah sisters from the thriving Welgevonden cheetah population, with another two earmarked for the Marakele National Park in Limpopo.
Van der Merwe said Reitvlei was a good holding site as it had hosted cheetahs in the past and there they would maintain their fitness and condition in a free-ranging environment. In addition, Rietvlei has the further benefit it has no predators that will compete with the cheetahs, so there is not a risk of losing them to lions, leopards or spotted hyenas, which exist in other reserves.
Cheetah were reintroduced to Rietvlei in 2014, and visitors have had the privilege of watching cubs grow up before being relocated. One was moved to Dinokeng, and last year, Dinokeng collared their sub-adults from her first successful litter.
Rietvlei is to benefit from the 250 head of game being moved from the Modderfontein nature reserve in Joburg over the next two months.
Van der Merwe explained the need to do regular exchanges of cheetah between meta populations to promote their genetic health and ensure that one area is not overpopulated while another is underpopulated.
Previously, cheetah were relocated to the Liwonde National Park and Majete Nature Reserve in Malawi and other protected areas in the southern and eastern parts of Africa.
The plan is to move the two young males from Rietvlei to their new homes early next year, depending on the course of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. Reserves in Malawi and Mozambique are being considered.
Before then, there will be an opportunity for Gauteng residents to get to know them.