In a Canadian first, a pair of cheetahs born in captivity in a Quebec zoo continue to settle into their new home in a more natural habitat at a refuge in Africa.
The “rewilding” effort of cheetah brothers Kumbe and Jabari from Parc Safari in Hemingford, Que. to the Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation in Zimbabwe has been a long term process.
“This is the first time cheetahs, the fastest terrestrial animals in the world, have been reintroduced to Africa from Canada,” the facility announced this week. “The two cheetahs arrived at their destination a few days ago and they are doing great. They are quietly discovering their new environment.”
The step could not have been taken without a team effort, which included the Aspinall Foundation, Zimbabwe’s Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation and Ethiopian Airlines.
Kumbe and Jabari, now about 18 months old, were born at Parc Safari in 2019. They also have two sisters named Dalia and Asani.
But Zoology Director Nathalie Santerre knew Kumbe and Jabari were good candidates for the release program based on their age, health, strength and gender.
After a 14-hour flight Monday from Toronto to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, the cheetahs headed to Harare where the Aspinall Foundation and the Imire reserve helped them settle into their new home.
“The brothers were calm and comfortable throughout the flights and even chatted to each other using cheetahs distinctive chirps!” the Imire Rhino and Wildlife Conservation.
“Once in Imire, Kumbe and Jabari will have to do 60 days of quarantine and get used to their new environment, under the African sun,” Santerre said in a statement. “At this stage, their natural instinct will take over. They will be followed up close and additional food will be offered to them, if necessary.”
The moved wasn’t easy on staff, but they new it was important.
“Our animals, we love them deeply, and it is very difficult to see them go today, but we know we are contributing to a cause much bigger than ourselves. his is why we are proud of this adventure, carried out with many partners, including the government of Zimbabwe. The main objective is to repopulate Zimbabwe’s reserves and participate in the growth of the genetic diversity of the species, which is part of the Park’s mission: to protect, take care, love,” Jean-Pierre Ranger, president of Parc Safari said in statement.
🐾* CHEETAH SAFE ARRIVAL!* 🇿🇼🇨🇦🇬🇧 We are so delighted to be able to announce that Jabari and Kumbe have arrived safely…Posted by Imire: Rhino & Wildlife Conservation on Monday, February 8, 2021
It’s hoped the pair will help bring genetic diversity and help rebuild populations of cheetahs in Zimbabwe. It has been on a drastic decline from a 1975 high of 1,500 to only about 170 reported in 2020.
The efforts are also being watched by CAZA, Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, which supports breeding programs and rewilding of animals.
“The Parc Safari Cheetah re-population project in Zimbabwe illustrates the cooperative nature of such projects amongst Canadian accredited facilities and their world partners,” Jim Facette, Executive Director of CAZA, said in a statement.
Des nouvelles de Kumbe et Jabari! 🐆 Suite à la grande nouvelle d’hier, nous vous invitons à suivre notre page Facebook…Posted by Parc Safari on Tuesday, February 9, 2021
“It is an incredible privilege to participate in something that is groundbreaking, something that can make a significant difference to the cheetah population,” said Reilly Travers, Imire Conservancy Director. “I think this project is a huge step forward and I am really proud to be part of this team.”
Photos: The Aspinall Foundation/Facebook