HESC released a seven year old captive-bred female cheetah in the Pidwa Wilderness Reserve during January 2019. The release formed part of the Southern African cheetah meta-population programme facilitated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), and entails selectively releasing captive-bred cheetahs to enhance the genetic diversity of the limited number of free-ranging members of the species in Southern Africa.

The release is conducted in three stages. The first stage entailed a three-month habituation period in a predator-free boma of one hectare. During this time the cheetah was fed impala carcasses.

For the second stage, Tillie was moved on Monday the 11th of March to a 2 000 hectare area in the Pidwa Wilderness Reserve. She will have the opportunity to hone her natural hunting skills as the area will be devoid of cheetahs, hyenas and lions. During this period she will be monitored daily and provided with meat should she fail to hunt successfully.

Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent while visiting the HESC attended the release of Tillie. HRH Princess Michael of Kent who is internationally known for her love of cheetahs is a patron of the Centre.

HESC has been breeding cheetahs since 1990 and was accredited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as a breeding centre for cheetahs in October 2003.

HESC’s founder and managing director, Lente Roode, says the release of cheetahs into the wild remains the ultimate objective of her cheetah breeding programme and the release will provide a fresh bloodline to broaden the diversity of the gene pool of the Pidwa cheetahs.

As female cheetahs are solitary animals by nature, Roode says releasing a single cheetah into a new area is a normal practice and is consistent with the way in which they live in the wild.

Only once she proved herself to be an independent and successful hunter, will she be released into the 17 000 hectare (third stage), big-five reserve to meet and interact with the other inhabitants in the reserve. Monitoring will continue to ensure that she adapts to her new environment, and hunts successfully.

Roode says that the numerous previous successful releases of captive-bred cheetahs into the wild by HESC, dispel the myth that cheetahs born and raised in captivity cannot be released and sustain themselves in the presence of other predators in the wild. Their ability to survive in the wild and in the presence of other predators is very much an individual ability; some do so successfully, others not.

Note to editors:

The Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) is a unique, African wildlife facility that focuses on the conservation and breeding of rare, vulnerable and threatened wildlife species. HESC also is increasingly becoming a refuge for animals injured and orphaned as a consequence of poaching events.

Released on behalf of Lente Roode
Founder and Managing Director
Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC)

For further information contact Ilse Schürmann
Mobile: 082 851 7157 – Tel: 012 460 5605