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The boma period

It is strongly recommended that Cheetah should be allowed to acclimatise to their new surroundings in a boma for two to three months prior to release. This is known as a “soft release”. A “hot release”, whereby an animal is released immediately onto the greater reserve, should not be attempted. Soft releases have proven instrumental in the successful reintroduction of carnivores into small fenced reserves (Hayward et al. 2007).

Relocated Cheetah should be held in the release boma for at least two to three months. This will allow them to settle into the new area and will break the ‘homing instinct’ that encourages Cheetah to return to where they came from. Cheetah should be closely monitored for health problems or any peculiar behaviour during this time. It is likely that other large predators present on the reserve will visit the Cheetah during the boma period. This exposure makes the Cheetah aware of the presence of other predators and increases the Cheetahs chances of survival following release.
Cheetah mortalities have been reported during the boma period due to Capture Myopathy. These mortalities were due to chronic stress suffered by the Cheetah when visited by other large predators. Cheetah have also been lost due to Leopard and subadult Lion breaking into the boma. It is critically important that boma fencing is adequate and that there is sufficient refuge for the Cheetah to conceal themselves from visiting predators whilst in the boma.
Cheetah should be collared when immobilised at the source reserve. This reduces the need to immobilise the Cheetah a second time once it arrives at the recipient reserve. Immobilising Cheetah is expensive and risky. Only pre-bonded males should be introduced into the same boma. Unbonded males will fight and often kill each other or totally ignore each other in opposite corners of the boma. Females should be introduced into separate bomas. Female Cheetah should only be kept in the same boma if they are related sub-adults.

Cheetah should be monitored on a daily basis whilst in the boma. Reserves that derive their income through tourism should make a concerted effort to habituate their Cheetah during this period. Cheetahs that are not habituated to humans often become wild and skittish following release and are seldom seen. They are also difficult to manage because veterinarians cannot get close enough to immobilise such Cheetah. Uncollared and wild Cheetah often have to be immobilized via helicopter which can be expensive and risky.

Figure 1. Cheetah mortalities during the boma period (July 2014).