It has now been 9 months since the three cheetah males arrived from the Eastern Cape to establish a new breeding population of cheetahs in the wild. Over the last couple of months, the animals have settled down and have been habituated to our staff. We trust that by this time their re-homing instincts have dissipated and that they are now ready to start life in the wild.
The day finally came in which they were to be returned to the wild to get fit and practice hunting skills while they will be closely monitored by us to determine if they are coping and are adjusting to life in the wild.
As the day cooled around 15h00 Andre Grobler one of our trustees and reserve manager arrived at the enclosure to release the males. Accompanying him was one of our donors that have supported the cheetahs since their arrival to help cover the feeding costs. It was supposed to be a glorious moment with the cheetahs rushing out and running off into the sunset. As with most wild animals one can never predict that animals would do – especially not when their behavior is supposed to be at its best.
In this instance and to the great disappointed of us all, the brothers rushed up to the bait as Andre opened the enclosure gate, grabbed it outside and summarily dragged it back into the enclosure and proceeded to feed. With bellies filled to the brim they then settled down inside the enclosure to sleep it off. Well what can I say? They had no intention of leaving; not at this stage and on que anyway.
Disappointed we all returned to the camp as the sunset. Early the next morning the cheetahs had all left the enclosure and despite us searching for them the entire day they could not be found anywhere. It took four solid days before they conveniently surfaced after the donor had already left. At this stage, they were desperately hungry and could hardly contain their excitement when Andre once again provided a free meal. They did however seem overjoyed at their new-found freedom.