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Cheetah Metapopulation Project

In 2011 the National Cheetah Metapopulation Project was launched by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). A major goal of the project was to implement a managed metapopulation approach to ensure the long-term viability of cheetah on small fenced reserves in South Africa. Under this strategy, Cheetah are managed in five clusters, namely KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, the Lowveld, the Waterberg and the Kalahari. Movement of Cheetah inside clusters eases logistics and allows for local management challenges to be addressed. The occasional movement of Cheetah between clusters will hopefully mimic natural dispersal that may have taken place in a landscape not impacted by anthropogenic factors. In order to facilitate the relocation of Cheetah and to put long-term measures in place to ensure the viability of the project, the following is being done:

  • development an interactive web-based database to aid reserves managers with Cheetah management
  • development of a national DNA database to aid genetic management
  • facilitation of the management of Cheetah in transit
  • facilitation of continued ecological studies on the behaviour of Cheetahs in small fenced reserves

The benefits of this approach will be:

  • eased management of Metapopulation Cheetah by reserve managers and conservation authorities
  • a more coordinated relocation strategy that will ensure the long-term demographic and genetic viability of Cheetah in small fenced reserves in South Africa
  • a better understanding of the minimum requirements for sustaining Cheetah in small fenced reserves
  • An increase in the resident range of Cheetahs in South Africa in the long-term by promoting the dropping of fences and the expansion of conservation areas.

Cheetah had been reintroduced into 8 of the 9 provinces in South Africa before the initiation of the Cheetah Metapopulation Project. The Free State was the only province that did not have wild free ranging cheetah. The first reintroduction into the Free State took place when a male coalition was relocated from the Eastern Cape to Laohu Valley Reserve in June 2013.

Figure 2. A timeline of Cheetah reintroductions into small fenced reserves in South Africa.