The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Rescued Cheetahs Shot Dead in the South

THREE cheetahs known as the Chipmunks, which were released into the wild in the South, have been shot dead.

This is one of the downsides of conservation, according to Dr Rudi van Vuuren, the director of the N/a'an ku se Foundation, who was responsible for their release.

The three male cheetahs Alwyn and Theodore (both two-and-a-half years old) and Simon (three years old) were released in the Sandfontein Reserve belonging to Willie Agenbach last year.

"All three cheetahs were fitted with GPS tracking collars and we monitored them every day. The release had been successful and the cheetahs were doing well. Eventually they wandered onto the Silwerstroom property of Bertus Fokkens where unfortunately they were unnecessarily shot by farm manager Dawie Olivier. We believe that they were then fed to the workers," said Van Vuuren.

The cheetahs were wild and not used to people and as far as could be determined they were not involved in the killing of livestock.

"We were very disappointed when we got the news from Agenbach. All the time, money and passion we had invested in these three cats were destroyed by human ignorance," said Van Vuuren.

"However, we remain positive about carnivore conservation and focus our time and resources on famers and landowners who want to conserve and want to farm in ways that benefit both them and the animals, and trust me, there are many of them."

There are success stories of farmers and wild animals living together in harmony, as is the case with a leopard called Lightning.

"We released Lightning, a female leopard that had previously come into conflict with humans in the central part of Namibia, although we could not prove that she was in fact a problem animal and there was no evidence that she indeed had killed livestock. In collaboration with Dr Nad Brain from Wilderness Safaris we released her in the Kulala Reserve in December 2009. Now, two and a half years later, she has made her home on Tsauchab River Camp of Johan Steyn."

Steyn, previously a livestock farmer, now focuses on using his land for tourism, and recently two of his guests spotted a leopard with two cubs. Steyn sent the photos the tourists took through to Van Vuuren who positively identified the leopard as Lightning by the collar she had on.

"It was like a conservation fairytale," said Van Vuuren.

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