A small update from our friends at Natural Selection. Natural Selection have some of our top places to stay and operate almost all over the Southwest of Africa from Angola, Namibia, Botswana to South Africa. The lodges they have on their books include the wonderful Tuludi, Sable Alley, Jacks Camp and San Camp in Botswana, Shipwreck Lodge and Etosha Mountain Lodge in Namibia and of course Lekkerwater Beach Lodge in South Africa. If you have travelled to any of their lodges already, then you know to expect great things during your stay at any of their lodges, so it is obvious to suspect they have an excellent ethos in everything safari, none more so when it comes to conservation and the support they provide to local communities and protection of endangered species. We have received a wonderful newsletter about their support in the relocation of threatened cheetah.

Assisted by several anatomical adaptions for speed – including a light streamlined body, deep chest, long thin legs, elongated spine and tail and protracted claws – it is ironic that the world’s fastest land mammal is in a race against time. Cheetah populations are declining globally, due to numerous threats to their survival such as habitat fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict, and declining prey availability. Cheetahs are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, with a call to have its status changed to endangered due to declining global populations. It’s very name ‘cheetah’ means ‘large spotted cat of India’ and is testament to its far greater historic contribution throughout Africa, Asia and Europe.

The current global population is estimated to be 7,000 and apart from a small population in North-eastern Iran, the majority are in sub-Saharan Africa – with Namibia having the largest free roaming (outside of formal protected areas) population of cheetah in the world. Approximately 76% of the cheetah’s range is in unprotected areas and for a species with home ranges averaging 554-7,063 Kmsq, conservation work outside formally protected areas is critical to their survival. In other words, they do not only need space but also concerted efforts from organisations to make cheetah conservation a reality. This ranges from habitat rehabilitation to conservation education to the reduction of farmer-cheetah conflict through the introduction of cheetah-friendly herding practices.

Etosha Heights is not only one of the largest private reserves in Namibia (encompassing approximately 60,000 hectares and sharing its northern boundary with Etosha National Park), but its wildlife management and recent conservation endeavours have created an environment that make it an ideal location for cheetah conservation. It is in this environment that Natural Selection supported the release of two male cheetah, rescued from Kalahari farmland. The release took place very recently on the 16th February 2022 and was co-facilitated with the Cheetah Conservation Foundation (CCF) who rescued these cheetah, the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), Etosha Heights Private Reserve and Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

The NUST Biodiversity Research Centre (BRC) has appointed a student who will monitor the cheetah’s daily movements for the next 6 months to ensure the relocation is successful and gain an understanding of their preferred prey and habitat use. This work forms part of an ongoing long-term conservation research programme at Etosha Heights and Etosha National Park that collects data on interactions between predators and prey.

This program is a collaborative partnership between NUST’s, BRC, GCF, Etosha Heights and the rest! This interdisciplinary conservation approach is a testament that collective efforts can secure the future of cheetah and other wildlife in Africa.