Last week, the two brothers had medical health checks and were fitted with satellite navigation GPS collars. The collars will enable us to keep track of their progress once released. The CCB team and the young cheetahs then made the 600km journey from Ghanzi to the Selinda Reserve, in Northern Botswana. Their new home is an unfenced 320,000 acre private reserve, abundant with wildlife, including predators such as wild dog and leopard, large herbivores such as elephant and hippo and a wide range of natural prey for the cheetah, such as impala, duiker and hares.
The cheetah behaved extremely well during the journey to Maun by vehicle and then on to Selinda Reserve by light aircraft. Once landed at the dirt airstrip in Selinda, we headed to the 50 acre enclosure set up as their new temporary home. The enclosure allows time for the cheetah to adjust to their new environment, refine hunting techniques and begin to associate the area as their territory. Dr Kyle Good and research assistant Harriet Reeves released the cats next to a natural pan within the enclosure. The brothers exited their boxes calmly and cautiously, as they began to explore their new surroundings. They are now settling in to the temporary enclosure before their final release onto the reserve in a few weeks time. Then for the first time since they were 6 months old they will be able to explore their environment without coming to a fence. However, they will have many obstacles to overcome, including perfecting their hunting abilities and surviving in an area with other predators, but we are confident in their abilities and believe they deserve their chance for freedom. Lorraine Boast, CCB Research Coordinator, will remain at Selinda for several weeks after the release to monitor their progress in their new wilderness home. They will then be monitored by their satellite collars for a further 2 years.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped make their release possible. Thanks to Selinda Reserve and its staff, for their assistance and dedication in building the release enclosure and supporting CCB staff. Thanks to the Botswana Department of Wildlife for their assistance. Thanks to SPOTS and the adopted parents whose interest in the cubs has enabled us to purchase collars and monitor their release. Thanks to Wildlife Conservation Network and Howard G. Buffet Foundation for ongoing support. Thanks to Cheetah Friends of Europe for funds towards transport and to everyone else who with your support, advice and time, made this initiative possible.