First Cheetah Released In Mountain Zebra National Park
Yesterday saw the release of cheetah in Mountain Zebra National Park, situated near Cradock in the Eastern Cape, marking the culmination of over ten years of a joint public-private conservation initiative.
The two male cheetahs, donated by the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust, are the first large predators to be introduced to the Park. Another two female cheetahs, each 13 months old, will be arriving at the Park later today from Samara Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet.
“The introduction of cheetah will restore the predator-prey balance as well as enrich biodiversity in Mountain Zebra National Park,” said Lucius Moolman, Regional Manager.
Moolman added that the introduction of the two male and two female cheetahs would be followed by the introduction of two more cheetahs into the park within the next six months.
The introduction of cheetah represents the climax of an expansion and re-introduction programme that has been made possible by the fund-raising efforts of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and other organizations such as the Barbara Delano Foundation, WildAid, Sasol Limited and Vesta Medicines.
David Shepherd initiated the fund-raising effort in 1996 with the donation of two paintings, which raised well over one million rand towards park expansion.
Funds raised were used to purchase land – nine properties in total - to expand the 6 536-hectare national park to 28 412 hectares. South African National Parks matched all funds that were raised by the private organizations.
Expansion of Mountain Zebra National Park was driven by the aim to reintroduce species like the critically endangered black rhino, as well as buffalo, gemsbok and large predators.
Buffalo were reintroduced in 1998, followed by black rhino and gemsbok in 2002. The increase of these animal populations is testament to the success of the reintroductions, with the buffalo population increasing from an original 24 to 124 today.
Preparation for the release of cheetah included the construction of a 72-kilometre long predator-proof fence around 21 031 hectares of the park.
Issued by: South African National Parks
Enquiries: Lucius Moolman
Regional Manager: Frontier Region
Tel: (048) 8812427 or 082 9054652
Johan De Klerk
Mountain Zebra National Park
Tel: (048) 8812427