The cheetah is currently endangered due to pressures from human encroachment on their habitat, and from unnaturally dense predator populations in some of Africa's wildlife reserves. However in Namibia the cheetah is prolific because of sparse human populations, abundant prey (domestic and wild), and a distinct lack of competition from lions and hyenas. As a result, farmers consider cheetahs as vermin and many wild cheetah are being poisoned or shot.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund have stepped in and are offering to capture and relocate these "problem" cheetah to wherever they're made welcome. The Lower Zambezi is a relatively new National Park and little research, empirical or otherwise, has been done on its large predator population. Since 1989, few cheetahs had been recorded there despite the area's apparent suitability. After much debate and research, it was decided that the only way to explain the limited number of cheetahs in the Park would be to introduce a study group into the Park and closely monitor their progress.
Chiawa Camp, in association with National Parks & Wildlife and Japan Aid approached the Cheetah Conservation Fund and had them do a practical assessment of the Lower Zambezi for suitability as a relocation area. After sending out their experts, CCF agreed and in October 1994, 3 cheetahs were delivered to the Lower Zambezi National Park. These were held in a large enclosure for a six week acclimatisation period before their release.
The cheetahs were monitored closely using radio telemetry and within 24 hours of the release, had successfully killed their first impala. Although all appeared to be normal, the cheetahs moved out of the Park, apparently exploring and establishing their new territory. Unfortunately two of the cheetahs were killed in traps set for small game in the rural community, however the remaining survivor was doing well 3 years after his release.
The territory established was approximately 80kms long and 7kms wide, along the Zambezi River. Most of this within the boundary of the National Park. The pilot program is now complete and further introductions are being considered. The program is closely monitored by international cheetah experts and more information is available from the Chief Wildlife Research Officer, NPWS, Chilanga.
Phone (260-1)278524 or 278636 or 278439