Sunday, October 27, 2013

KwaCheetah Breeding Project – Nambiti Private Game Reserve – Jeremy Williamson

I was fortunate to recently revisit the KwaCheetah Breeding Project in the Nambiti Private Game Reserve near Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal.

Since our last visit, the Katz Cafe and Curios has been opened. Des and Elizke Gouws have created a super venue to enjoy the Cheetah, then relax with real coffee or some other beverage and a snack. A “full house” breakfast at R45 is really excellent value, the KwaCheetah Burgers seemed amazing value at R65. Then there is the Serval Wrap, toasted sandwiches and salads. Desserts and Kiddies meals too.  Having experienced the food at Cheetah Ridge (formerly known as Woodlands Lodge) I would say the flavours would be excellent. We were so tempted when we saw what other guests were being served but we had just left one of the Lodges in the reserve, where the food had been wonderful and our late breakfast  made it just too soon to try any of these tempting meals here.

Des gave an introduction of the aims and objectives of their Breeding Project, to the assembled guests and then we all visited Vega the leopard.

Saved and hand reared lovingly from a very small cub, he will be a difficult one to release. Interaction with him is now only through the fence as he is already one powerful cat.

We all then walked up to the cheetah enclosures.

Notice the non retractable claws

The cheetah on the other hand amaze me – from being the most cuddlesome of animals to instantly transforming into this ‘efficient hunting machine’. Des and Elizke are getting all the younger cheetah to learn how to hunt,  the older ones are already making kills on a neighboring property which has a variety of antelope. It’s seems so incredible that they are taken there, released from the vehicle and their nature changes to that of ‘hunter’ and off they go at great speed to catch themselves something to eat!

Kill and a meal and then back, all lovable to Des and Elizke, who take them back to their large pens at the KwaCheetah Breeding Project across the road. It will be wonderful when the first of the cheetah are released to the wild. It looks like the breeding environment and methods  that they are using is working. The cheetah are certainly breeding well. These cats are so vulnerable in the wild, being so persecuted by lion in particular, and then the drastic reduction of their natural habitat and free range, that projects such as this and of course De Wildt, are doing so much to save the ever reducing numbers of these magnificent felines.

The entrance fees charged for visiting this project go some way to assist in the considerable food and veterinary bills – only the best venison for these guys. It is particularly fortunate that the patron of this initiative, Mr Rob Le Sueur has other game farm property where the food for the cheetah is sourced.

One is able to visit this facility independently of visiting a Lodge in the Nambiti Game Reserve as a day visitor, whilst guests at the various Lodges are able to visit whilst staying there. It might be more convenient to visit the Cheetah project on the day of arrival before checking into the Lodge or on departure. The 11h00 interaction is ideal for this.

Photographers, this is a wonderful opportunity to secure some good pictures of this normally fairly elusive and shy cat. One is taken into the large enclosures where one is able to then interact with the incumbents. This does not apply to Vega the leopard though.  I don’t think Des enters there too often any more.

All photographs by Jeremy, Lana and Lee Williamson

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