Last month, Africa’s most endangered big cat has was reintroduced to Liwonde National Park after a 20-year absence in Malawi, bringing back a population of large predators to the reformed wildlife reserve in the south of the country. This is a milestone conservation achievement, and is set to transform the natural ecological balance in the park after many years of rampant poaching, which devastated the environment. Cheetahs have not been seen on the banks of the Shire River on Liwonde’s western boundary for more than a century, so to have these 4 individuals released to live a wild life here is an historic moment.
Congratulations to African Parks, Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), and Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) – we certainly share the hopes of a long and prosperous life for these cheetahs and generations to come.
After African Parks (a non-profit organisation) took over the management of Liwonde in 2015, it dedicated time and resources to scouring the park and removing thousands of snares, assigning strict law enforcement, and rebuilding the park fences, providing efficient security and making Liwonde a suitable area to protect Malawi’s wildlife. There is an incredibly varied bird population, many elephant herds, and a precious population of black rhino, which was safely reintroduced years ago. The 4 new cheetahs (2 male and 2 female) are Liwonde’s first large predators, introduced to establish a natural balance and give the cheetahs the opportunity to thrive and reproduce.
Want to visit in Liwonde National Park? Mvuu Lodge occupies a prime location on the banks of a lagoon just off the Shire River in the beautiful Liwonde National Park. It is characterised by riverine forests, romantic palm trees and busy floodplains teeming with hippo activity. Mvuu Lodge comprises eight luxurious tents for a maximum of 16 guests, each with en-suite bathroom facilities and a private viewing platform looking out on the lagoon.
These cheetahs originate from South Africa, where they were specially selected by the EWT as a part of their Cheetah Metapopulation Project, which ensures the protection and safe distribution of cheetahs, ensuring genetic diversity. Some of South Africa’s most outstanding private reserves supplied the cheetahs for relocation to Liwonde: Phinda, Welgevonden, Mountain Zebra, and Amakhala. The transportation of the cheetahs by plane from South Africa to Malawi was provided by Ulendo Airlink and Robin Pope Safaris. The participation of all parties has made this relocation a victory for conservation, and hopefully, a turning point for the threatened global population of this phenomenal big cat.
There are only an estimated 6700 adult cheetahs alive in the wild today, and a tragic 90% of the cheetah’s original habitat has been lost due to human encroachment. These high specialised hunting animals are no competition for lions, hyenas, and leopards as they hunt at different times of the day and target different prey species. The environment in Liwonde is perfect for the cheetahs, and they are expected to do very well. For the time being, the 4 cheetahs are being held in large, protected bomas in the park while they acclimatise to their new home, and after careful monitoring, the bomas will be opened and the cats will be allowed to wander free in Liwonde’s 580 square kilometres. We hope to receive good news of the cheetahs safe release soon and to follow their journey as they establish a wild population in the future.