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Early reintroductions into small fenced reserves (1965 - 1999)

The first Cheetah reintroductions into small reserves in South Africa took place in Natal Province between 1965 and 1978. All 142 Cheetah utilised for these introductions were sourced from commercial farmland in Namibia were they were problem animals. Sixty four Cheetah were introduced into Hluhluwe Umfolozi , 33 into Mkuzi (now Mkuze), 13 into Itala and 14 into Ndumu (now Ndumo). The last of these reintroductions took place in 1978 when eighteen Cheetah were introduced into Eastern Shores (St. Lucia, now Isimangaliso). Cheetah have since been removed from Isimangaliso, Itala and Ndumo. These removals were mainly due to inadequate fencing and consequent livestock losses in neighbouring communities. Cheetah reportedly had undesirable impacts on the local Tsessebe population in Itala (Anderson 1982).

Concerns about Kruger’s dwindling population prompted the introduction of 16 Cheetahs from Namibia in 1968. This was the first of three batches intended to boost local numbers. Whilst in quarantine at Tshokwane, most of the reportedly young Cheetah contracted a tick-transmitted bacterial infection called Rickettsiosis. Two died but after intensive treatment four adults were released between Tshokwane and Satara. A second group of eight was released near Crocodile Bridge and further ten along the Sabie River and at Tshokwane. Several returned to their holding pens in an emaciated condition and had to be artificially fed or recaptured. The fate of the remainder is not known although some of the 34 Namibian Cheetah that were introduced into Kruger are thought to have survived and integrated with the local population (pers.comm Gus Mills).

The first Cheetah reintroduction into Gauteng took place in 1975 when five male and three female Cheetahs were released into Suikerbosrand. This founder population increased to more than 50 cheetahs in four years and caused a “simultaneous dramatic drop in the blesbok Damaliscus dorcas phillipsi and springbok Antidorcas marsupialis numbers” (Pettifer, 1981). All the Cheetahs were subsequently removed from the reserve. The next reintroduction into a Gauteng reserve took place when a male coalition was introduced onto Rietvlei Nature Reserve in 2002.

The first attempts at Cheetah reintroduction in Pilansberg National Park took place in 1981 (Hofmeyer & van Dyk 1998). Seven Cheetah were successfully introduced from the De Wildt Cheetah Breeding Station and soon began to increase in number. These Cheetah apparently began to prey on the young of antelope species that still existed in low densities in the park and a decision was taken to remove the animals soon after. Only one male coalition remained in the park. Further reintroductions took place in 1995, 1996 and 1997. All these animals were obtained from the Africat Foundation, Namibia (Hofmeyer & van Dyk 1998). Numbers have since declined due to high predator densities and the last Cheetah with Namibian genetics disappeared from the reserve in early 2012. Interesting two free roaming Cheetah recolonised Pilansberg in late 2012.

The first reintroduction of Cheetahs into a private game reserve took place when four females and two males were introduced into Phinda in March 1992. These animals were also obtained from Namibia. Reintroductions into Phinda were largely successful and lion adapted Cheetah from Phinda have since been introduced into 9 other reserves across the country. Between 2002 and 2009 Cheetah were reintroduced into a further seven private game reserves in KwaZulu-Natal.

Although free roaming Cheetahs have always moved through Lowveld reserves on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) was responsible for a small number of reintroductions as early as 1994. Cheetah were introduced onto Hoedspruit and Makado Air Force Bases in order to promote flight safety. Apart from one incident in which an aircraft collided with and killed a Cheetah, they have been responsible for keeping prey species, specifically Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), away from runways. Cheetah were reintroduced into Madikwe Game Reserve from Africat Namibia in 1995 (Hofmeyer & van Dyk 1998). A further five reintroductions took place between November 1994 and January 1998. Although a small population did manage to establish itself for a few years, the high predator density on Madikwe resulted in unsustainable losses. Cheetah were reintroduced into Madikwe in 2012 through the Cheetah Metapopulation Project.

The 1998 reintroduction of Cheetah into Madikwe was the last known case of Namibian problem cheetah being utilised for reintroduction into a small fenced South African reserve. Approximately 215 Namibian Cheetah were introduced into South African reserves between 1966 and 1998. The bulk of these cheetah (181) were reintroduced into small fenced reserves, predominantly in KwaZulu-Natal (142). In 1998 the Large Carnivore Management Association of Namibia (LCMAN) encouraged the Namibian government to stop the movement of Namibian Cheetah into South African until it had developed its own Cheetah conservation strategy. Cheetah were subsequently declared state property in Namibia and are no longer available for reintroduction into South African reserves.