Cheetah On Duty at SA Air Force Base

Rhino and carer in the rain
October 13, 2015
Belmond Eagle Island Lodge, Okavango Delta
November 27, 2015

Cheetah On Duty at SA Air Force Base

I got an interesting press release today from Lente Roode, Founder of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre that warmed my heart….her news usually does because she and the team are instrumental in rescuing African animals from the harm that man puts them under.

They are releasing 2 captive-bred male cheetah into Makhado Air Force Base, in the far north-east of South Africa close to the Zimbabwe border, to keep grazing animals off the air strip.  It’s a pretty remote spot where animals roam free, but the wild animals have become used to aircraft noise and are no longer frightened at the sound of an oncoming plane.

Enter Cheetah Patrol!

Wim & Tobie – two male cheetahs from the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre are going to patrol the area and live as if in the wild. Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre rescue cheetahs – amongst other animals – because farmers are still killing them to protect their livestock. They also breed cheetah to help improve the gene pool, which has become very stagnant.

Why male captive-born cheetahs?

  • Being familiar with human contact makes these cheetah more manageable, taking into account the number of people landing and taking off from the Airfield every day.
  • A cheetah is the best possible predator for this situation, because lions pose a threat to people and leopards are skittish and seek solitude.
  • Male cheetahs form coalitions of 2 to 5 animals and releasing 2 male cheetahs who have already bonded is the ideal solution.
  • Female cheetahs are solitary and don’t share their food with other adults. They only consume about half a carcass and the remainder would lure vultures, which would pose an even bigger threat to incoming aircraft than wandering game.
  • They know it works becuase two male cheetahs (and subsequently a third) were released at this Air Force Base and survived naturally for a number of years.

Do you know other happy stories like this? Do tell! 

For another great cheetah story where they climb into the safari vehicle, see this post.

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