|News & Press l News 10 July 2009
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|Cheetah and Leopard Re-Introduction Programmes on NamibRand Nature Reserve
There are only about 10.000 cheetahs left worldwide, which puts them on the brink of extinction. About 25-30 % of this worldwide cheetah population are estimated to live in Namibia! Leopards are not threatened to this extent, but nonetheless, like cheetahs and many other wild animals, leopards suffer from the loss of habitat and conflict with humans. Before white settlers turned the area of what today is NamibRand Nature Reserve into farmland, cheetahs and leopards were part of the Pro-Namib ecosystem. But the conflict with the new human settlers eliminated the cheetahs and pushed the leopards back into some solitary mountain areas. So, it had long been the dream of NamibRand Nature Reserve to re-introduce cheetahs to the now protected area and to stabilize the leopard population. This dream came true in 2008 and now in 2009 the Reserve sees the fruits of its efforts.A total of 10 cheetahs have been released on NamibRand Nature Reserve. The Reserve, together with 2 neighbouring farms, which have joined in form of a conservancy recently, now boasts more than 190.000 ha of protected area. A lot of space for these amazingly fast runners – a cheetah can speed up to 100 km/h in three seconds, faster than a racing car! Some of the released cheetahs have been collared and they have been seen in good condition many times. Most of the cheetahs have stayed on the reserve. Those that have left are on the neighbouring farms which form part of the conservancy. They are all successful hunters by now. Even the inexperienced group of male youngsters has learned to prey on springbok, hartebeest, young oryx and even zebra. Adult oryx are too big and dangerous for the cheetahs, which only weigh about 50 kg.
Two adult leopards have also so far been released on NamibRand Nature Reserve. One of them, a female, had been freed from appalling captive conditions. Both leopards do very well and it is hoped that they will start breeding.Cheetahs are not dangerous, as in the wild they will run away from humans. Leopards will also flee from humans and will normally not attack if they are left alone. As they are very shy, they are rarely seen. If you would like to know more about the releases, read the Barking Gecko, the newsletter of the NamibRand Nature Reserve.