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Managed Metapopulation

One hundred and seventy one Namibian Cheetah were introduced into seven small fenced reserves between 1965 and 1991. Under the National Cheetah Conservation Forum (NCCF) a further 157 Cheetahs were removed from commercial farmland and introduced into 37 reserves throughout South Africa. Cheetah were declared state property by the Namibian government in 1998 and the NCCF ceased to operate in 2009. Free roaming Cheetah from commercial farmland are no longer utilised for reintroduction onto small fenced reserves. A Cheetah Population and Habitat Viability Assessment carried out in April 2009 (Lindsey et al. 2009) determined that in order to maintain 90% of the existing heterozygosity of cheetah in the reintroduced subpopulations and to overcome stochastic events the following had to be established:

  • 20 subpopulations of 10 Cheetahs in the absence of lion
  • 10 subpopulations of 15 Cheetahs in the presence of lion

The Cheetah Metapopulation Project was launched in 2011 in order to implement a managed metapopulation approach for these subpopulations. The Metapopulation currently consists of 48 small fenced reserves that hold approximately 318 Cheetah. These Cheetah are managed in five clusters, namely:

  • Waterberg cluster 13 reserves (60 Cheetah)*
  • Lowveld cluster 9 reserves (27 Cheetah)*
  • Eastern Cape cluster 13 reserves (75 Cheetah)*
  • KwaZulu-Natal cluster 9 reserves (100 Cheetah)*
  • Kalahari cluster 4 reserves (56 Cheetah)*

As of July 2014
Plans exist to reintroduce Cheetah into a further six small fenced reserves over the next three years.
Metapopulation reserves hold approximately 27% of South Africa’s wild Cheetah and constitute 9% of the habitat currently available to Cheetah in the country. Metapopulation reserves range in size from 2 000 to 105 000 hectares and hold anything between one to 40 Cheetah. The Metapopulation decreased by 16.7% in the first three years following the discontinuation of the NCCF (April 2009 - April 2012). The main reasons for this decline was the lack of breeding reserves. In April 2012 approximately 30% of reserves held only a single sex of cheetah whilst a further seven percent of reserves were contracepting their Cheetah. Additionally, 27% of cheetah moved off of Metapopulation reserves were being sold to captive facilities. These issues have largely been addressed and the Metapopulation stabilised in late 2012.

 

 

Fig 5. The 48 metapopulation reserves are located in five management clusters that collectively occupy all 9 provinces of South Africa.