Two cheetahs born in the UK are to be sent to Africa and released in the wild.
The cheetah brothers, Saba & Nairo, aged two and a half, currently live at Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury but will soon be rehomed, making the 6,000 mile trip to South Africa next month.
It will be the first time a captive-born, hand-raised cheetah has left the UK for rewilding in Africa.
The brothers were born at Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve and Saba was hand-reared by Damian Aspinall, Chairman of the Aspinall Foundation and his wife, Victoria in their home.
The pair will leave the park on 6th February and will be flown to Ashia, a world-class cheetah centre in South Africa’s Western Cape before eventually moving to Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve, a 14,000 hectare property in Great Karoo.
There, they will undergo a rewilding process that has been developed and successfully applied by the Ashia Cheetah Sanctuary over the last two years.
Damian and Victoria will accompany Saba & Nairo on their journey from the UK to South Africa and will personally release them into their new home.
Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable by the ICUN, with an estimated 6,674 individuals remaining in the wild.
A major fundraising campaign has been launched to support the cheetahs and their rewilding.
Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation said: ‘It will be difficult to say goodbye to Saba & Nairo but finding ways to return animals to the wild is something I believe in passionately.
“This approach may challenge the zoo community, but it is the right thing to do and I sincerely hope more zoos around the world finally take notice and follow suit.
“With fewer than 7,000 cheetah remaining in the wild, it is more important than ever to support the wild population by bringing captive bred animals back to their ancestral homes for rewilding.”
He added that The Aspinall Foundation have “proven time and time again” that such projects can work after successfully rewilding animals in Congo, Gabon, Java, South Africa, Tanzania and China.