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Free roaming population

It is thought that more than one third of South Africa’s Cheetah survive as free roamers outside of protected areas. The free roaming population is located almost exclusively along South Africa’s northern border with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. A smaller free roaming population persists in the Lowveld (northern eastern Mpumulanga and south eastern Limpopo) outside the boundary of the Kruger National Park. The free roaming population in South Africa is reported by landowners to have increased over the past 30 years. This is reportedly as a result of the recovery of prey populations with the switch from cattle ranching to wildlife ranching (Marnewick et al. 2007). Cheetah sightings are not uncommon in Limpopo, North West and the Northern Cape, whereas in the 1960s and 1970s observations were rare. Where Cheetahs and humans compete for resources, conflict is inevitable. Game species are natural prey for Cheetahs and landowners derive an income from them through hunting and live sale. This brings about conflict that often results in Cheetahs being killed or removed. Cheetah removals were formally carried out through the NCCF between 1999 and 2009. Cheetah are no longer removed from farmland for reintroduction into Metapopulation reserves. This is due to the impact on the free roaming population and the fact that relocation is seldom a long-term solution to conflict.

Key threats to Cheetah outside protected areas are:

  • Direct killing through conflict with humans
  • Illegal trade into the captive market

Fig. 3. Distribution of the free roaming population in South Africa. Points indicate districts where free roaming cheetah were removed from commercial farmland by the NCCF between 1999 and 2009.