MISSION 13 of 2011
Name of Mission: Cheetahs Relocated to Gorongosa National Park (GNP)
Date of Mission: 9 July 2011
Pilot: Ivan Marx
Beneficiary: Gorongosa National Park (GNP)
Objective of the Flight
To relocate four cheetahs from the Modgaji Conservation Project in the Eastern Cape to the Gorongosa National Park (GNP) in Mozambique
Beneficiary’s report By Domingos Muala of the GNP Communcations Dept
Our newest residents arrived in Gorongosa National Park (GNP) from neighbouring South Africa. South Africa is one of the main contributors of wildlife to Gorongosa, in an effort to strengthen our rapidly growing animal population. GNP has previously received buffalos, wildebeest, elephants and hippos, all relocated from conservation areas in South Africa including many from the Limpopo National Park.
After a long period of negotiation between the authorities at GNP and the Modgaji Conservation and Rehabilitation Project, a South African NGO, Carlos Lopes Pereira (Director of Conservation and the GNP Vet) assumed management of the relocation process. The addition of the cheetahs will make the savannah plains of Gorongosa a place to gain true insight into the fastest animals in the jungle.The relocation operation became a reality with the arrival of four cheetahs by air, courtesy of another South African NGO, The Bateleurs, a group of volunteer pilots who fly missions for conservation and the environment, in southern Africa. This was a unique opportunity for GNP staff (as well as for many tourists present on the runway of Chitengo Safari Camp) to observe how carefully and diligently a team of wildlife lovers moved the cheetahs. The still-tranquilised animals were moved from the plane to GNP jeeps, which quickly carried them to a quarantine location, known as a boma. The boma is a specially built enclosure which was adapted for the cheetahs by a dedicated team of workers from GNP.
Will Van Duyn of the Modgaji Conservation and Rehabilitation Project, gave us the following statement:
“I have been working in conservation for over 20 years. We care for the cheetahs and strive to return these animals to the freedom of the jungle. I love working with animals. Our experience in conservation teaches us that when working with the relocation of wild animals, there are successes and setbacks. It is never an easy operation … I enjoy the task of animal conservation because I am sure it is in the best interest of the animal. In my opinion, releasing animals back into the jungle is always the better option. Imprisoning them in cages is a not a good solution …”“As soon as we return to South Africa, we will make further efforts to bring more cheetahs to Gorongosa National Park. These four cheetahs are the first group, which has opened the door to many more cheetahs in Gorongosa,’ said Will Van Duyn.
This operation was made possible by the good will of many people, including a pilot from the famous “Bateleurs” (pilots who serve the cause of environmental conservation for free), a veterinarian and two assistants (all from South Africa) who accompanied the cheetahs throughout the trip.
Expenses related to this cheetah relocation were borne by philanthropist, Allan Friedland, who said:
“I walked through many conservation areas in South Africa and I did not like what I saw. Animals are treated like a tool or a bicycle, discarded when there is a malfunction. I believe that all animals deserve respect and to be treated well. They deserve a life in the wild, not to be trapped. It has always pained me to see animals exploited. When I heard that Will intended to return some animals to the freedom of the jungle, I decided to contribute to this worthy cause through a financial donation.”Once installed in their quarantine location, it was discovered that one of the cheetahs had not survived the complex transport operation. This tragic loss was due to an incident during the immobilisation of the animal. Will Van Duyn confirmed the death and said:
“Doing what we do, giving freedom to the animals where it is necessary, carries risks. So, I believe that our operation was a success because we have three cheetahs alive. It broke my heart to lose the fourth cheetah, but if we were no longer able to return these cheetahs to the wild it would be even worse. Either way, this operation has opened up new areas of collaboration and more cheetahs will be relocated to Gorongosa.”