In the lore of conservation, all translocations are not equal. Capturing an elephant might sound difficult but in fact, when darting it from the air, its vast body offers a huge target area to aim for. Cheetah, on the other hand, are the fastest land animals on earth, able to shift gear from zero to 96 kilometres per hour in only 3 seconds, and then reach sprinting speeds of around 120 km/h, so the team has to be extremely nimble to catch one. It takes a highly skilled pilot and crew plus a vast team of experts to safely capture, care for and transport cheetah.

As Vincent van der Merwe (Cheetah Range Expansion Project Coordinator) explains however, what you are seeing here is the ‘sexy’ part of rewilding, the capture of the cheetah and its transportation to new territory. Leading up to this moment is years of work put in by Peace Parks and partners to prepare the ground for these incredible carnivores.

As the most vulnerable of the world’s big cats, cheetah are currently listed as vulnerable to extinction, but there is concern that their numbers are dropping, with fewer than 7,000 adult cheetahs remaining in the wild. Translocating these four cheetah to Maputo Special Reserve – two males and two females – will act as a ‘founder’ population that will give rise to a healthy population of cheetah in the reserve over time.

This translocation is especially significant to Peace Parks Foundation and Mozambique’s National Administration For Conservation Areas as it shows just how far Maputo Special Reserve has come in its rewilding programme. Only a decade ago there were very few animals to be seen here, but after years of planned rewilding that has included many partnerships, plus increased protection and fully-fencing the reserve, it teems with life and species of all sorts, from impala and zebra to buffalo and elephant. Bringing back predators in the form of these cheetah will help to rebalance the ecosystem, managing the large numbers of herbivores that now live there. And, as CEO Werner Myburgh hopes, Maputo Special Reserve has the potential to help the cheetah as a species to grow in number and in doing so, to take them off the endangered species list.

Maputo Special Reserve is managed through a partnership agreement between Peace Parks Foundation and Mozambique’s National Administration for Conservation Areas (ANAC), and these cheetah translocations have been made possible through collaborating with experts, Ashia Cheetah Conservation organisation, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and veterinary partner, the Mozambique Wildlife Alliance.