New Contenders

July 27, 2020

As one of the most beautifully captivating animals to find on safari, the cheetah is a massive asset to any game reserve. Their sleek elegance and unique characteristics make it a truly remarkable animal to encounter.

We are fortunate enough to find these animals fairly often around the Mavela lodge as the Manyoni game reserve is home to a significantly large population of Cheetah. Having a large population of these animals necessitates constant conservation management and requires a massive effort to ensure the population has good genetic diversity. One way to introduce new genes to the Mavela cheetah population is to do a swap deal with other game reserves in the area. This process mimics the natural migration of young cheetah to new, unexplored regions. In a naturally regulating open wilderness system, young Cheetah will be chased away by the dominant territory holder under which they grew up – most commonly this will be the father or mother of the young cheetah. This happens at around 18-25 months of age and is a mechanism whereby nature prevents related animals from mating with each other.

The Manyoni Game reserve works closely with the Endangered Wildlife Trust to facilitate these swap deals between different reserves and help manage the entire South African Cheetah population as one large meta-population. This facilitates coordination and efficiency in moving the animals to their new homes.

Two males on Manyoni were identified as candidates for the swap as they had been breeding with the females in the reserve for over 4 years. It was critical to get new blood into the reserve as soon as possible. The cheetah males evaded the Manyoni team for a couple of weeks, but eventually they were found, darted and given a thorough health check by the local vet. They were then moved to their new home which was only a short drive from Mavela Lodge.

A few weeks later, we received the news that the 2 male cheetahs destined for Manyoni had been found and were on their way to our reserve. The teams got together and moved the new cheetah into a holding enclosure in the heart of the reserve. This is an essential step in the process and helps the new cheetah acclimatise to their new surroundings. What will often happen when an animal is released on the reserve without acclimatising, it will follow its natural homing instinct and make its way back from where it came. This instinct is incredibly strong and still not fully understood in how the animal finds its way home from great distances, often after being sedated or held in a transportation container for some time. The holding period is around 6 weeks, where they will be provided with food and fresh water during their stay.

In a few short weeks, these new contenders will be roaming the grassy plains of Manyoni Game reserve and will no doubt waste no time in asserting their dominance. There is always a sense of excitement in the air when we can expect to see new animals out in the wild!

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