UK cheetah brothers arrive safely in South Africa for their rewilding journey [photos]

In a world first, Saba and Nairo, the two 2.5-year-old captive-bred cheetah brothers from Howletts Wild Animal Park in the UK, arrived safely at Ashia's Cheetah Center in Paarl, South Africa on 7 February 2020 to start their rewilding journey.  It was previously reported that the cheetahs will undergo a rewilding process developed and successfully applied by Ashia's Cheetah Center in the Western Cape over the last two years. The two cheetahs consist of Saba, who was hand-reared by Aspinall Foundation Chairman Damian Aspinall and his wife, Victoria in their home. Nairo is Saba's littermate brother.

Photo: Supplied

A long journey

The brothers were safely transported for the flight to the southern tip of Africa on 6 February 2020.

"Many cheetah have done a similar long journey in the past, as did the ancestors of these two cats some generations ago, with one small difference: the starting point was somewhere in Africa and at the end of their journey in Europe there wasn't a free life waiting for them, but a captive life in a zoo," said Chantal Rischard, founder of Ashia. 

"Ashia is immensely proud of Damian and Victoria for leading this project and for going through all the paperwork and financial burden to give Saba and Nairo the chance to walk on the wild side of their homeland.

We are relieved that these two magnificent cats have arrived safely and will give them the best (hands-off) care possible during their transition and preparation period while at Ashia."

On the ground

A press release states that Dr Willem Burger, founder of Ever Co (former Awcf), assessed the brothers when they arrived at Cape Town International Airport. He will also be the designated veterinarian who will be assessing and monitoring the cheetahs through their translocation. Once the paperwork was finalised and with the state vet's stamp of approval, the precious cargo was offloaded and eventually palleted to finally be uploaded onto the transportation truck for the short 60-minute drive to Ashia. 

The brothers left the crates and entered their spacious new camp easily and calmly.

Making themselves at home

Both brothers proceeded to make themselves at home in their new environment, with Nairo on the mount enjoying the views and Saba actively exploring the camp.

"The Aspinall Foundation's animal team already started with Ashia's pre-wilding protocol during the cheetahs' last weeks at Howletts and we are confident that they will be ready in a matter of weeks to take their next rewilding step at Mount Camdeboo", says Rischard. 

UK cheetah brothers arrive safely in South Africa for their rewilding journey [photos]Photo: Supplied

The final step of their rewilding journey is the translocation to Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve - a 14 000 hectare property in the Great Karoo.

"It's is an absolute privilege and honour to be part of the rewilding of Saba and Nairo and I can't wait to see them running free on Mount Camdeboo!" said Buchanan, owner of Mount Camdeboo. "It is essential for the conservation of wildlife and our environment that these pioneering projects take place. There are so many benefits on all fronts like increasing the genetic diversity of this species which will give them a greater chance of survival indefinitely.

"This is also a call to all zoos globally that it is indeed possible to rewild certain animals and that they can have an important role to play in the greater mission of conservation. There are still many milestones ahead and we look forward to celebrating each one!"

Damian Aspinall, the Aspinall Foundation Chairman also said that this is true conservation in action.

"Thanks to an incredible and dedicated team of experts, we have accomplished a world-first: two cheetah born and raised in the UK have taken their first steps on African soil. Very soon, Saba and Nairo will be rewilded and their genes will support the wild population.

This is true conservation in action and clearly demonstrates that projects like this are not only possible, but vital."

UK cheetah brothers arrive safely in South Africa for their rewilding journey [photos]Photo: SuppliedUK cheetah brothers arrive safely in South Africa for their rewilding journey [photos]

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