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Financial impact of Cheetah on small fenced reserves

More than half of Metapopulation reserves reported that Cheetah have a positive financial impact as they constitute an additional large predator that enhances the tourism experience. Many of these reserves contained Cheetah that were collared and habituated to humans during the boma period. These Cheetah were seen on a regular basis by game drive vehicles. This effectively maintains their habituation to humans. Reserves with highly habituated Cheetahs reportedly walk guests to within a short distance of them. Feedback obtained from tourists suggests that they responded very well to these “Cheetah walks”. Cheetah walks should be carried out under the supervision of suitably qualified ranger. Under no circumstances should children be allowed to walk Cheetahs.

Eight Metapopulation reserves (17%) have reported a definite negative financial impact by Cheetah through the removal of the reserve prey base. Two Eastern Cape reserves attempted to quantify the costs of holding Cheetah on their properties. They reported that the value of prey consumed by Cheetah varies between R115 000 and R130 000 per cat per annum. Similar evaluations have not been carried out in other clusters. Two Kalahari and one Eastern Cape reserve reported that their Cheetah fled at the sight of humans or vehicles and hardly contributed to the tourism experience. These reserves introduced former free roaming cheetah that were never collared or habituated. These Cheetah were former ‘problem’ animals obtained from commercial farmland, darted and ‘hot’ released onto their new reserves. A hot release is where an animal is introduced onto a property without a period of familiarisation to new surroundings in a release boma.  Hot release are not recommended because Cheetah have an instinct to walk back to their area of origin. In one incident a male Cheetah escaped from his boma the day after his arrival. He walked through over 600km of commercial farmland to the reserve he originated from. It is highly recommended that reserves wishing to reintroduce cheetah for tourism purposes habituate them during a 3 month boma period.