Travelogues: gerhardt >> De Wildt Cheetah Research Centre

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South Africa
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Trip Date:2004-10-16
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Countries visited:South Africa
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by Gerhard Theron (gerhardt) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1936 W: 4106 N: 244] (11620)
The De Wildt Cheetah Centre was established in 1971 with the aim of breeding endangered species. Over the past two decades the Centre's efforts have resulted in the major achievement of breeding what was once a threatened species, the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). Over the years, nearly 600 cheetah cubs have been born at De Wildt - a dramatic contrast to the days when the cheetah population of South Africa was estimated at a mere 700.

While the cheetah project was the base from which the Centre launched its conservation ethic, it soon widened to include other rare and endangered animal species such as wild dog, brown hyaena, serval, suni antelope, blue and red duiker, bontebok, riverine rabbit and vultures - including the very rare Egyptian vulture. Many of these have been successfully bred for later reintroduction into the wild, thus helping to repopulate areas where such species have disappeared or are no longer abundant.

Mission
To conserve, breed and wherever possible, reintroduce indigenous endangered species back into their natural habitat. To educate the younger generation to recognise and appreciate the flora and fauna of their country and to value their natural heritage.

Goals
* To breed rare and endangered species.
* To support scientific investigations into all aspects of these species.
* To promote public awareness - particularly amongst the younger generation - of the pressing need for wildlife preservation: to afford visitors to the Centre the opportunity of viewing endangered species in natural surroundings and at close quarters.
* To continue to play a role in conservation biology by helping to maintain adequate gene pools or rare and endangered species.
* To generate income to support existing and future breeding projects at the Centre.
* Where feasible, to re-establish endangered wildlife species into areas where they once occurred naturally.

Staffing and Management
The De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre is owned and run by Ann van Dyk, acknowledged as a world authority on cheetah. She employs a staff of 24 men and women to help with the administration of the Centre. Providing further assistance is a management committee consisting of 10 honorary members: among them are wildlife veterinarians, zoologists and dedicated supporters - they all contribute time, effort and invaluable expertise.

The Centre is a privately owned, non-profit, non-governmental organisation, funded by self-endeavour and sponsorship. It plays a vital role in the preservation of endangered southern African wildlife species and in the education of young people - the conservationists of tomorrow.

Achievements
1) Largely due to the Centre's success, the cheetah was removed from the endangered list of the South African Red Data Book - Terrestrial Mammals in 1986. Following the success of the cheetah programme, several other rare and endangered species have been bred successfully.

2) As the first breeder of the rare king cheetah, the Centre has ended speculation that the king was a separate species: it has proved that genetically the king is a true cheetah, but with a variation of coat pattern and colouring.

3) The breeding and release of captive-born African wild dog packs in a natural habitat is a major preservation breakthrough for southern Africa's most endangered carnivore.

4) A breeding nucleus of the highly endangered riverine rabbit has been donated to the Karoo National Park, a natural habitat of the species.

5) Resulting from the Centre's highly productive breeding programme, the Kruger National Park received a breeding nucleus of suni antelope.

Detailed info on the Cheetah available on their website here.