The Aspinall Foundation are delighted to announce that the two cheetahs sent from Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent for a new life in the wilderness of South Africa’s Great Karoo have completed the final stage of their rewilding.
For the past 12 months, the cheetahs – two brothers named Saba & Nairo – have been honing their natural instincts to a razor’s edge, first at Ashia Cheetah Conservation just outside Cape Town and later in a 741-acre training camp at Mount Camdeboo Private Reserve. They are now entirely self-sufficient hunters, effortlessly taking down large game such as kudu and blesbok with a cheetah’s trademark speed and grace.
On 17th February 2021, The Aspinall Foundation team released Saba & Nairo from their training camp into the main reserve at Mount Camdeboo: a stunning 8,000 hectare protected area which offers the perfect habitat for these expert hunters. The brothers will be discretely monitored using satellite and telemetry tracking collars by the Aspinall Foundation and Mount Camdeboo teams as they explore their new home. There, they will hunt independently, encounter females, and, when nature takes its course, will contribute their valuable genetics to the South African cheetah metapopulation.
This is a world-first success story: Saba & Nairo are the first captive-born cheetahs from the UK to ever be rewilded in South Africa.
Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation commented: “This is an incredible success for The Aspinall Foundation, Mount Camdeboo and Ashia Cheetah Conservation. Many doubted that this groundbreaking project was possible, but together we have definitively proven that captive-born cheetahs can be successfully rewilded. We are already working with other organisations to replicate this incredible project and rewild more cheetahs in Africa, bringing valuable new genetics to local populations and return these stunning cats to their ancestral homelands.”
Saba & Nairo’s rewilding timeline:
- 15th July 2017 – Saba & Nairo are born at Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve, Kent
- Late July 2017 – Saba shows signs of illness and is removed from the litter to be hand-raised by Damian and Victoria Aspinall. He makes a full recovery under their care.
- December 2018 – Saba is reintroduced to his brother Nairo and the pair immediately form a strong bond
- 5th February 2020 – Saba & Nairo leave the UK
- 7th February 2020 – Arrival at Ashia Cheetah Conservation, where Saba & Nairo acclimated to life in South Africa
- 1st August 2020 – Transfer to hunting camp at Mount Camdeboo Private Reserve
- 2nd August 2020 – Saba & Nairo make their first kill, a young blesbok
- 15th October 2020 – The brothers encounter a group of sable bulls and are chased off after the sable notice them stalking
- 14th December 2020 – Saba & Nairo hit a major milestone: hunting independently for 50 days without the need for supplemental feeding from their monitors
- 11th January 2021 – Aspinall Foundation monitoring team witness Saba & Nairo take down their biggest prey so far: a large kudu
- 17th February 2021 – Release from hunting camp into the wider reserve at Mount Camdeboo