Re-introduction of Leopards to Majete

Oct 7, 2011

MISSION  26 of  2011

Name of Mission: Re-introduction of Leopards to Majete         
Date of Mission: 7 October 2011   
Aircraft used: Beechcraft KingAir        
Pilot: Ivan Marx      
Beneficiary: African Parks  

Objectives of the flight:  

Transportation of two adult leopards (one male and one female) from Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre in Hoedspruit, SA to Blantyre, Malawi (for translocation to the Majete Wildlife Reserve).

Beneficiary’s story of the mission        By Liza le Roux for African Parks        

The Majete Wildlife Reserve, situated in Malawi’s lower Shire valley, has become the proud recipient of two young leopards from South Africa. The two leopards are the first to be introduced to Malawi across international borders, and the first leopards to make their home in Majete for nearly two decades.

In a complex translocation project that took months to prepare, the two young leopards were flown to Malawi early on Friday 7 October on board a private Beechcraft KingAir 90, piloted by Dr Ivan Marx of The Bateleurs. Wildlife vet Dr Heinrich Muller

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tranquillised both animals for the duration of the ten-hour journey and keep a constant vigil during the flight, due to the length of time involved.

The leopards, a male and a female between two and three years old, were captured in Kruger National Park and a private farm near Ohrigstad respectively. Both animals were in conflict with human activity and had been identified for removal. As only one viable population of leopard remains in Malawi, in the Nyika National Park, African Parks identified South Africa as an appropriate source of leopards for the Majete restocking programme. A total of eight leopards will be introduced to the 70,000 hectare Majete Wildlife Reserve over the next few months.

Great fanfare and excitement greeted the arrival of the leopards at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre on Friday afternoon. After being transferred to purpose-built cages, watched by wildlife officials and park management, they were transported to Majete by road and finally offloaded at bomas on the reserve, where Dr Muller administered a reversal drug to revive them. By Saturday both leopards had made a full recovery and had settled down well in their bomas. The male leopard was released into the reserve on Friday 14th October and the female on Saturday 22nd October.

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Majete Wildlife Reserve has been a conservation success story since African Parks assumed management in 2003. Since then over 2,550 head of wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, sable and black rhino, have been introduced to the park. The introduction of leopard is the penultimate step in the Majete restocking programme, which will culminate in the reintroduction of lion in 2012.

African Parks is extremely grateful to all those who have contributed to this milestone event, in particular: the Liberty Wildlife Trust for its financial contribution to predator-proof fencing at Majete; Africom for a donation towards translocation expenses, including the construction of the bomas; and especially to Dr Marx and The Bateleurs for flying the leopards to Malawi.

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