Our Cat Release Program
The main emphasis of the cat project is to release the progeny of animals back into the wild. We only keep our breeding pairs (ambassador animals) and those animals that cannot be released, at the project and for educational purposes. All offspring, where possible, will be released into the wild, back where they belong.
In the 22 years that the Emdoneni Cheetah Project has been in operation, we have successfully rehabilitated and released Servals, Caracals, African Wildcats and Cheetahs. ‘We are delighted to accept the two new Servals and play our part in ensuring the conservation of this rare and beautiful species. ‘iSimangaliso provides them with a secure home away from inhabited areas and the threat of snaring,’ says iSimangaliso Wetland Park CEO, Andrew Zaloumis. Servals are listed on the ‘Threatened or Protected Species’ (TOPS) list owing to their rarity. They are vulnerable to being snared and killed by farmers, in particular for their beautiful pelts.
The adult female and young male were confiscated from a farmer in Vryheid who kept them in captivity illegally, apparently to be used for hunting purposes. According to the farmer they were found in snares, but on investigation, no marks were found on their bodies to support the claim. They were recovered by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife District Conservation Officers and taken to the Emdoneni Cheetah Project near Hluhluwe.
The cats were set free in the open grassland area in the Easter Shores side of the park, a suitable habitat and where plenty of prey is available. Servals eat mainly rodents, fish, birds, insects and small reptiles which are found in abundance in natural wetland areas. On a previous occasion Servals were released in the Western Shores side of the park.
Releasing two caracals born in captivity into the wild, turned out to be both a sad and exciting moment for Emdoneni Cheetah Project owners Louis and Cecillie Nel.
Two one year old male caracals, born at Emdoneni Cheetah Project, Hluhluwe, were part of the breeding project aimed at saving the African wildcat, Caracal, Cheetah and Serval from extinction. The intention is to breed where possible and release the offspring back into their natural habitat.
The cats were released in the Mziki Shareblock at Phinda Game Reserve after being judged fit and able to hunt for themselves. Tiptoeing out of the crate, the first male entered his new home by first stopping right in the middle of all the spectators to give them a last close-up inspection before disappearing into the forest. Male number two wasn’t too keen on exploring his new habitat and it took a lot more convincing before he made his leap for freedom. The caracal is an endangered species, mostly killed by farmers because of predation on their livestock. In some areas they are killed for their skin and meat.
The Nel Family truly have One Heart, One Passion and One Goal, to save these rare species.
“I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self-contained; I stand and look at them long and long.”
By Walt Whitman