African Parks, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that manages 19 protected areas in 11 African countries, has announced that the Bangweulu Wetlands in Zambia has received a small founding group of cheetahs – the first of their species to return to this community-owned protected area in north-eastern Zambia in almost a century. The relocation of an initial three male cheetahs from South Africa took place in December 2020 resulting from a collaboration between Zambia's Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), African Parks, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Ashia Cheetah Conservation and National Geographic.
The cheetahs were safely released into temporary enclosures especially designed to support their acclimation and will be fitted with tracking collars to enable their long-term monitoring. The founder population is genetically unrelated and was sourced from three reserves, namely Mountain Zebra National Park (Eastern Cape), Rogge Cloof (Northern Cape) and Welgevonden (Waterberg, Limpopo). According to African Parks, the Bangweulu Wetlands is of suitable size (6,570 km²) and habitat to support a viable cheetah population. Its connectivity to other protected areas provides the added potential of establishing a healthy metapopulation to promote the long-term persistence of the species in the region.
|Bangweulu Landscape - Credit: African Parks/Steve Lorenz Fischer|
The Bangweulu Wetlands is designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International and as a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance. Located in north-eastern Zambia, the community-owned protected area is one of Africa’s most important wetland systems containing a unique floral and faunal diversity. The Bangweulu Wetlands supports 50,000 people who rely on the landscape’s rich resources. Zambia's Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), six Community Resource Boards (CRBs) and African Parks partnered in 2008 to manage this vital 6,645 km² aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem.