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National Cheetah Conservation Forum (NCCF)

With the switch from cattle ranching to wildlife ranching over the past 30 years there has been an increase in farmer-Cheetah conflict. This prompted a group of farmers and conservationists to create the National Cheetah Management Program (NCMP) in 1999 which later became the National Cheetah Conservation Forum (NCCF). A major goal of the NCCF was the implementation of a compensation and relocation programme. Whilst the NCCF was still operational, farmers were donated R10 000 for capturing ‘problem’ Cheetah on their properties rather than shooting them. In the process Cheetah buy-in was received from the farming community and these Cheetah were introduced into reserves prepared to take them for a minimum donation of R15 000. The R5 000 difference was utilised to cover holding, transport and veterinary expenses for the Cheetah being relocated.

The establishment of the NCCF coincided with the nationalisation of Namibian Cheetah. The NCCF effectively provided a new source of cheetah for reintroduction into small fenced reserves. In the process 157 Cheetahs were removed from commercial farmland and introduced into 37 reserves throughout South Africa. The majority of these Cheetah were removed from Limpopo Province whilst smaller numbers were removed from the North West and Northern Cape as indicated in Table 1.

Table 1. The removal of free roaming Cheetah from commercial farmland between 1999 and 2009.

Many NCCF reintroductions into small fenced reserves took place in a very ad hoc and opportunistic manner:

  1. Non-predator adapted Cheetah were introduced into reserves with high predator densities;
  2. Reintroductions into inadequately fenced reserves resulted in further farmer-Cheetah conflict;
  3. Many reintroductions took place without consideration of the genetic origin of Cheetah being moved and
  4. the lack of long-term planning following reintroductions resulted in several population explosions and high levels of inbreeding. It was also realised that certain farmers were abusing the compensation and relocation program by catching any Cheetah they could for the financial reward. The establishment of the NCCF did however result in an exponential increase in the number of small fenced reserves from 1999 until 2009. Problem animals captured by the NCCF were utilised for the cheetah reintroductions into the Waterberg, the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and the southern Kalahari as stipulated below.

Although a free roaming population of Cheetah has always persisted in Waterberg, the reintroduction of NCCF cheetah into Welgevonden and Shambala took place in 1999 and 2001 respectively. The movement of free roaming Cheetahs through these reserves has assisted management by naturally increasing numbers and introducing new genetics. Cheetah were reintroduced into a further eleven reserves in the Waterberg region between 2002 and 2012.
The first Cheetah reintroduction into the Eastern Cape took place an NCCF coalition was released onto Shamwari in September 2000. Cheetah have since been introduced into a further nine reserves in this province. Most of these Cheetah were sourced through the NCCF. Cheetah reintroductions into Eastern Cape reserves with more dominant predators such as Lion (Panthera leo), Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) and Leopard (Panthera pardus) have reportedly been less successful (Hayward et al. 2007).

The first reintroduction into the Western Cape took place in 2003 when four Cheetah released onto Sanbona Private Game Reserve. Cheetah have since been reintroduced into a further two Western Cape reserves. Although a healthy population of Cheetah has always persisted in the South African portion of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Cheetah were eradicated from the southern Kalahari by the 1960’s. The first reintroduction of Cheetah this area took place in 2005 when Glen Lyon Private Game Reserve received two Cheetah from NCCF.

In 2009 the NCCF relocation initiative was discontinued to come in line with the newly developed National Cheetah Action Plan (http://Cheetahandwilddog.org). Only 14 of the original 157 free roaming Cheetah reintroduced onto 37 small fenced reserves were still alive in December 2013.