South Africa battles to save the cheetah

27th Jun 2013

South Africa's second-most endangered carnivore has returned to the country's Free State province for the first time in 100 years.

Two male cheetahs have been introduced at the Laohu Valley Reserve, helped by the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

The world's fastest land animals, cheetahs are classified as "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and it is thought there are fewer than 1,000 left in South Africa.

The Free State is the only South African province that has not had wild cheetahs since their elimination during the colonial period.

Kelly Marnewick, manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's (EWT) carnivore conservation programme, said their arrival marks an "extremely important moment" in its battle to save the cheetah from extinction.

The programme intends to introduce a female cheetah onto Laohu Valley with the aim of producing the first wild cubs born in the Free State province in over a century.

The cheetahs were born on the Amakhala Game Reserve - a great favourite with holidaymakers on safari trips and specialist tours - in South Africa's Eastern Cape two years ago.

They have roamed free from birth, hunting and fending independently.

The EWT said the reserves provided a vital population of safeguarded cheetahs, outside of their populations that roam the Kruger National Park.

Cheetahs have been reintroduced into about 48 reserves across southern Africa for the delight of visitors on group tours and for ecological reasons.

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