A pair of cheetahs from the facility are settling in well after recently making the multi-day journey from Quebec’s Parc Safari to the Imire wildlife sanctuary in Zimbabwe. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A pair of cheetahs from the facility are settling in well after recently making the multi-day journey from Quebec’s Parc Safari to the Imire wildlife sanctuary in Zimbabwe. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

‘Already starting to act like wild cheetahs’: Canadian-born pair to be released in Zimbabwe wilderness

A rare ‘rewilding’ project has conservationists hoping for the future of the cheetah species

A pair of Quebec-born cheetahs are adapting to life under the African sun in preparation to be released in a rare, international “rewilding” project that conservationists hope will help ensure the future of the species.

Big cat brothers Kumbe and Jabari are settling in well after recently making the multi-day journey from Quebec’s Parc Safari to the Imire wildlife sanctuary in Zimbabwe.

The siblings are spending 60 days in quarantine before they are released into a 4,500-hectare reserve, and are already starting to act like wild cheetahs — much to the joy of Nathalie Santerre, the zoological director at Parc Safari who helped raise them.

Santerre said within 24 hours of arrival, the cheetahs had already learned to find higher ground — a habit wild animals use to spot prey or danger — and had showed an interest in hunting.

“They’re very in tune with every little noise, every little movement,” Santerre said in a recent interview.

Kumbe and Jabari were born at Parc Safari in 2019 — conceived through a breeding partnership with the Toronto Zoo — and were chosen for the project based on their strength, size and genetics.

It’s hoped they will eventually sire cubs of their own and help restore Zimbabwe’s wild cheetah population, which has declined to fewer than 200 animals from around 1,500 in 1975.

Both Park Safari and Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums say they believe Kumbe and Jabari are the first Canadian-bred cheetahs to be released in Africa.

Santerre said Kumbe and Jabari were carefully raised in order to give them the best chance of thriving in the wild. They were kept within sight of their potential prey and fed animal carcasses to teach them how to tear into food.

While cats have a natural, strong hunting instinct — as anyone who’s seen a domestic pet stalk a mouse can attest — Kumbe and Jabari’s skills and endurance were developed by training them with lures.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the cheetahs will learn to feed themselves successfully in the wild, Santerre said. But so far, she added, “the boys” are exceeding every expectation — chasing small animals that venture into their enclosure and eyeing the larger prey animals they can see from a distance.

“You can see they’re keen to get out on those plains and just start running,” Santerre said.

The cheetahs will be equipped with GPS collars and monitored by rangers for the first year so they can ensure the animals are eating and finding water.

“Rewilding” is the process of reintroducing animals to an area where their species used to roam in the hope of re-establishing that population, according to a senior conservation biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Carolyn Callaghan says the cheetahs’ journey from Quebec to Africa — the product of a partnership between Parc Safari, the Aspinall Foundation and Imire — is an example of the international effort that is increasingly needed to save vulnerable animals. The partnership also reflects the shifting role of zoos, she said, from displaying captive animals to helping repopulate endangered species.

In particular, she said zoo breeding programs play an important role in ensuring at-risk species maintain as much genetic diversity as possible to keep populations healthy.

“It remains one of (zoos’) mandates to connect people with these captive wild animals, but it has grown beyond that to this conservation genetics role and re-establishing population,” Callaghan said in a recent interview.

Species have also been successfully reintroduced in Canada, she said, including Vancouver Island marmots as well as bison and whooping cranes.

Callaghan notes, however, that captive breeding and reintroduction are an inferior solution to protecting animals and their habitats in the first place.

AnimalsConservationTrending Now

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Aquaculture employee, Michelle Franze, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Women in salmon farming should be celebrated, not bullied

Since mid-December, salmon farming has been one of the leading topics in… Continue reading

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

The platanthera dilatata is the fragrant white bog orchid whose perfume on a hot August day is one of the unforgettable delights of a summer hike in Strathcona Park. Photo supplied
Strathcona Wilderness Institute AGM upcoming

The Strathcona Wilderness Institute (SWI) will hold its 2021 annual general meeting… Continue reading

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Hosts charged, attendees facing COVID fines after Vancouver police bust party at condo

Police had previously received 10 complains about that condo

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. A joint federal and B.C. government housing program announced today aims to help people living in up to 25,000 vulnerable households pay their rent. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Federal, B.C. governments announce $517-million rent aid program to help vulnerable

Benefits for those not eligible for B.C.’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Cole Moore with one of his sisters, Jasmin Moore. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island man looks to brain surgery for second chance

Fingers crossed that procedure can give Cole Moore a new lease on life after decade of seizures

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
B.C. father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

Most Read