iSimangaliso’s cheetah

19 Feb 2018

Protecting endangered species in our World Heritage Site

The rich terrain of the uMkhuze section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park  is renowned as home to not only 400+ bird species and the ‘Big Five’ but also endangered species such as wild dog and cheetah. With the increasing pressure of human population and development all over Africa, the habitat available to such species within relatively small protected areas in is limited, necessitating intensive management by conservation staff.

Isimangaliso Newsflash

Cheetah numbers are dynamic in uMkhuze, with a current population of nine animals, of which four are female. It is hoped that these females will soon boost the population. Relocations in and out of the Park are necessary to introduce new genetic strains and minimise inbreeding, and the recent acquisition of two young male siblings has strengthened the gene pool.

Isimangaliso Newsflash

Isimangaliso Newsflash
Veterinarians Dr Rowan Leeming and Dr Joel Alves fit satellite collars to two recently introduced young cheetah males before release from the bomas into uMkhuze. Photos: Kate Church, African Wildlife Vets.

All of the adult cheetah are collared to enable daily monitoring of their movements – essential to ensure the survival and success of critical populations of animals such as these.  Collars bought by the iSimangaliso Rare and Endangered Species Fund – which raises money through its Eco-Series events and other donations – were recently fitted to the brothers, with veterinary costs assisted by the African Wildlife Vets organisation. Sadly, a cheetah’s worst enemy remains man, and as such the presence of collars and close observation can prove a lifesaver for these magnificent cats.

Isimangaliso Newsflash
WildlifeACT, an NGO that has an arrangement with the Park to conduct daily monitoring of these species within the World Heritage Site, was recently given a new Land cruiser by the iSimangaliso Authority to assist monitors in their work. Above left: iSimangaliso Park Operations Director Sizo Sibiya handed the vehicle over to WildlifeACT’s PJ Roberts. The observations and information they provide are essential in assisting Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife in keeping tabs on the animals and reacting swiftly if intervention is required, such as in the case of snaring or injury.

Isimangaliso Newsflash

Isimangaliso Newsflash
An early morning bird watching stroll around uMkhuze’s Mantuma camp yielded more than expected for visitor Ingelore Taylor and a friend last weekend. While walking along the paved pathway to the camp swimming pool they saw movement in the shade of the tree, and realised that they were seeing not one, but four cheetah lounging in the grass a few metres away! “The cheetah were alert but relaxed, and after a few minutes they moved off deeper into the bush,” says Taylor. “It was a great privilege to encounter this cheetah mother and her three cubs, and reminded us that we must always be aware of our surroundings, particularly in an unfenced camp. uMkhuze is truly wild and special!” Photos: Ingelore Taylor.

iSimangaliso’s Rare and Endangered Species Fund

iSimangaliso hosts several Eco-series events during the year with the purpose of enabling visitors to interact with the Park in unique ways. These include the Sodwana Bay Festival (incorporating an underwater and land photographic competition), iSimangaliso Trail Challenge, iSimangaliso Half Marathon and Fun Run and the iSimangaliso MTB. The entrance fees for each event include a contribution towards the Park’s Rare and Endangered Species Fund, which is used exclusively for the introduction, monitoring and management costs of such species within iSimangaliso. An example is the purchase of the collars used for monitoring cheetah, wild dogs, lion, elephants and lions.

The cheetah collars used in iSimangaliso (with regular satellite data uploads) cost in the region of R50 000 each, while an adult cheetah female in her breeding prime can fetch R70 000 on game auction. Says iSimangaliso Marketing Manager Lindy Duffield: “Contributions made to the iSimangaliso Rare and Endangered Species Fund are vital in assisting with these purchases and the Park appreciates the direct support of its management efforts by all the participants in the Eco-series events. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, where our conservation-minded public can be assured of making a direct and tangible difference to the welfare of endangered species in our World Heritage Site.”

Isimangaliso Newsflash

Media enquiries should be directed to Slindile Msweli at sli@isimangaliso.com.