Four cheetahs captured at reserves in South Africa have been flown to Mozambique this week, as part of ambitious efforts to reintroduce the distinctively spotted cats in regions where their population has dwindled.
Speaking to The Associated Press shortly after those going to Mozambique were tranquilized and placed into crates, wildlife veterinarian Andy Frasier said the relocations are tough for the animals.
“It’s a very stressful process for the cats to be in a boma (livestock enclosure) environment because they have nowhere to go whilst we are darting them,” said Frasier of shooting the cats with darts of tranquilizers.
Frasier said the team is preparing for the larger and more challenging relocation of cheetahs to India which will require the cats to travel a much longer distance with stops in commercial airports.
He also mentioned that those cheetahs would be treated with a tranquilizer that lasts for three to five days during their travel.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s cheetah population is expanding at a rate of about 8% annually, allowing the country to move about 30 of the cats to other game reserves within South Africa and to export some to other countries, according to Vincent van der Merwe, manager of the Cheetah Metapopulation Initiative.
Conservationists say Mozambique’s Zambezi River delta had a significant cheetah population which was drastically reduced by rampant poaching and because lions and leopards preyed upon the smaller cats.
In this week’s operation the two male and two female adult cheetahs were tranquilized in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province and then were flown to Mozambique’s Marromeu National Reserve in the Zambezi delta region.