Cheetah: where there were none before

by • 26 January 2010

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A cheetah in the Matusadona: where there were none before.  This cheetah pictured on its impala kill by lucky photographer, Derek Smith, in December 2009, is a descendant of a small population of 14 of these lovely animals re-introduced into the Matusadona National Park in the1990s by conservation organization, The Zambezi Society

Cheetah are considered problem animals and are often killed by farmers because they prey on livestock.  A number of these animals were saved from such a fate in southern Zimbabwe in 1993 and translocated by road, air and ferry across Lake Kariba to a new life in the Matusadona National Park on the southern shores of Lake Kariba.  This park received many of the animals saved during Operation Noah in the 1950s when the rising waters of the newly-dammed Zambezi River flooded its vast valley to create what is now known as Lake Kariba.  But, despite suitable habitat and prey species for cheetah, none of these magnificent animals had previously been seen in this remote and wild protected area. 

The captured cheetah were carefully immobilized under veterinary supervision for the cross-country journey, and, on arrival, were placed in a specially constructed enclosure (boma) near Fothergill Island.  They remained there for several weeks, acclimatizing to their new surroundings and being carefully monitored before being released into the wild. 

Since then, cheetah have become a part of the wildlife landscape in the Matusadona, to the delight of visitors to the Park.  Their population has been carefully monitored by two scientific follow-up studies conducted by The Zambezi Society at 10 year intervals after the re-introduction exercise, and it appears that they have bred successfully and established viable numbers. 

However, cheetah are shy creatures, less easily spotted by wildlife enthusiasts than lion and rarely photographed on a kill.  Thank you, Derek, for sharing your priviledged experience with Wild Zambezi!

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