BY SHAME MAKOSHORI
“We are delighted to announce that we have teamed up with the inspirational teams at Imire: Rhino & Wildlife Conservancy, @Parc Safari Hemmingford and @Ethiopian Airlines to rewild Kumbe and Jabari, two cheetahs born in Canada,” read an announcement on the website of the UK-based Aspinall Foundation recently.
“Kumbe and Jabari flew on Saturday from Toronto to Addis Ababa on special crates on board of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and another shorter connection to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. There they met with our team and Imire’s and driven to their new home at Imire Rhino & Wildlife Conservancy.
The two boys will first spend 60 days in a quarantine boma to allow them to acclimatise to their new life under the African sun and practice chasing a lure to prepare for their first hunt. After the quarantine, they will move into Imire’s 4 500-hectare reserve, where they will encounter wild game and start hunting for themselves. Within a few short months we expect this handsome duo to be living completely wild and free,” said the foundation which is run by Damian Aspinall, an English businessman and conservationist.
The mere thought of two sweet young cheetahs traversing the world to the African jungle simply is quite intriguing. The routine is normally that translocations originate in Africa. But here, there was a role reversal, which is rare in Zimbabwe and so NewsDay (ND) business editor, Shame Makoshori sought to understand why.
He speaks to Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation’s conservancy manager, Reilly Travers (RT) to understand how this exciting development happened and why Canada chose Zimbabwe for the rewilding operation.
- In Zimbabwe, we are used to exporting animals, so it’s exciting that animals came from the West to Zimbabwe. How did this happen?
- Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation, and our partner The Aspinall Foundation UK, strongly believe animals belong in the wild, in their natural habitat and not in captivity. The Aspinall Foundation are leading conservation specialists who have rewilded hundreds of animals back to Africa, including cheetahs, black rhino and western lowland gorillas. They are on the forefront of rewilding captive animals in areas of protected wilderness and identified Imire as the ideal partner for this latest project. Imire is thrilled and proud to be part of a new era of conservation rewilding animals back to their original habitats.
- Tell us more about Kumbe and Jabari. Where they born in Canada?
- Kumbe and Jabari were born at Parc Safari in Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada, where they were bred in captivity in Canada.
- The translocation to Zimbabwe interests us. What factors were considered to bring the cheetahs here, and not to other countries?
- Zimbabwe’s cheetah numbers are in decline. The Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe reports that cheetahs in Zimbabwe have lost 61% of their historic range and that there are as few as 170 individuals left in the country which mainly occur in wildlife protected areas. Zimbabwe is a country well known for its conservation credentials and Imire was fortunate to have the support and assistance of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority throughout the translocation process. The long-term goal and key objective of the project will be to establish a breeding population of cheetahs at Imire for the purposes of contributing to the genetic diversity and to assist in repopulating other reserves and national parks in Zimbabwe. Imire is passionate about making meaningful contributions to conservation and increasing the population of key species such as cheetah and black rhinos in Zimbabwe. Aspinall were impressed by Imire’s long history in conservation and successful model of breeding and release of endangered species as demonstrated by their rhino programme. They identified Imire as a well-protected and professionally-managed conservation organisation which was a safe and well-suited area for cheetah reintroduction.
ND: How did they specifically choose Imire Game Park for the destination of the cheetahs?
RT: Imire is a 4 500-hectare conservancy in Mashonaland East and is an ideal release site for cheetah as it is well protected, and cheetahs ideal prey species are abundant on the property. The property is the perfect size for a two male coalition and the cheetah will not have to compete with other large predators.
ND: So, how have they been doing since arrival? Are you convinced that they will adapt to our much warmer climate?
- Kumbe and Jabari are doing very well with their adaptation to a free-ranging life. Both boys are settling in and eating well and adjusting to the new sights, smells and temperatures easily. They are relaxed and alert and the translocation has thus far been without any issues. We could not have asked for a better start to an extremely exciting new era in conservation for Imire.
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