Cheetah return to Malawi after 20-year absence

Photo Credit: African Parks Frank Weitzer

A small founder population of cheetah was successfully relocated to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, restoring the severely threatened species some 20 years after its extinction in the country.

Led by African Parks, a conservation non-profit that manages national parks and protected areas on behalf of governments across the continent, in partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), the translocation of four cheetah to Liwonde on the 17th of May formed a national milestone as the first big cats made their return to the park.

Liwonde National Park Manager Craig Reid, said: “Malawi has made progressive commitments to conserve wildlife. The reintroduction of the cheetah is historic for the country and a new era for the park, where the return of large predators holds great optimism for the restoration of the natural system and the conservation of this highly vulnerable species”.

The cheetah made the journey by plane from South Africa and arrived safely in Liwonde National Park, thanks to the support provided by Ulendo Airlink and Robin Pope Safaris for the transportation. They were released into specially-built bomas to allow for close supervision during a period of adjustment, until being released into the wider park. The animals are all in good health and are expected to do well in Liwonde, where habitat and prey conditions are optimal and measures are in place to ensure their ongoing conservation and protection.

These cheetahs were carefully sourced through EWT’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project, which was established in 2011 with the aim of creating safe spaces for cheetah in South Africa and managing the existing population in a number of reserves to ensure genetic diversity. The project now operates in 54 reserves, and in 2016, began investigating opportunities for reintroduction outside of South Africa. This partnership was deemed ideal, as African Parks has secured safe spaces for a myriad species in the reserves it manages.

Phinda and Welgevonden Private Game Reserves made a male Cheetah available, while Mountain Zebra National Park and Amakhala Private Game Reserve made a female Cheetah available for this reintroduction into Malawi.