Cheetah rewilding - the next step for Imire's cheetahs

In January 2021, Imire and UK-based charity, The Aspinall Foundation, embarked on a cheetah rewilding journey for two male cheetahs born at Parc Safari, a zoo facility in Canada. 

Rewilding is a comprehensive conservation effort focused on restoring sustainable biodiversity and ecosystem health. This is achieved by protecting core wilderness areas and protecting and reintroducing apex predators and keystone species.

The rewilding process must work on a long-term perspective, to ensure sustained positive effects on biodiversity and the creation of resilient ecosystems for future generations.

Rewilding Phases 1 and 2 - Canada to Zimbabwe

The relocation of Kumbe and Jabari, sixth-generation zoo animals, across the world, back to their natural territory was a groundbreaking test of whether it would be possible and viable for captive-born cheetahs to survive and thrive in a wild environment in Africa.

Relocating Kumbe and Jabari from Phase 1, their birthplace at Parc Safari in Canada, to Phase 2 at Imire was a massive success.

The goal of Phase 2 was to support the naturally driven processes of the cheetah with an intermediate training ground for the boys to hone their skills and adjust to a free life on African soil. Imire was chosen as the perfect location for Phase 2 as it is a good size for constant surveillance, well-protected and free of competitor apex predators. The two cheetahs were monitored daily to ensure their safety and success, and with each passing day, their confidence and skill in the bush grew exponentially.

The two years that Kumbe and Jabari spent on Imire were a phenomenal success. The natural instincts of both cheetahs kicked in instantly and they began effectively hunting as a coalition, without any instruction or training, from the first day they were released from their quarantine boma. From this point, their confidence, skill and ability to survive and thrive in the wild grew.

Photo credits: Sam Turley Photography / Instagram @ringermarika

Rewilding Phase 3 - into the wild

Phase 3 saw the release of Kumbe and Jabari into a larger conservancy, one with competitor predators and other wild cheetah populations. The boys made their final move from Imire in September 2023 and the journey to their new home was a long one.

After a nine-hour trip they were once again released into a fenced quarantine boma to allow for acclimatisation. However, on night one they jumped out of the boma already keen to explore their new home. The two cheetahs have been free-roaming in their new conservancy for the past two weeks with huge success. They have made several kills, been able to find water sources using their own instinct and have encountered a wide variety of other apex predators.

Wildlife conservation work and rewilding means acting in ways that are innovative, opportunistic, and entrepreneurial, with the confidence to learn from failure. This rewilding process and the partnership between Imire and The Aspinall Foundation has involved countless individuals and organisations. Each has lent support, knowledge, and expertise to continually refine best practices and achieve the best possible results.

Reilly Travers, Conservancy Director of Imire comments “Kumbe and Jabari’s journey from six generations in a zoo facility to wild and free in Zimbabwe is nothing short of incredible. I continue to be  humbled by the natural world and the instincts which remain so deeply embedded within wildlife. The species are our natural heritage in Zimbabwe and their value to the ecosystem is enormous and underestimated. They can, and will survive and thrive, if we provide them with the natural space and environment they require. Watching the boys rewilding success has been a highlight of my career and of so many others in the conservation world.”

We hope that within a short time, the cheetah will integrate with the resident cheetahs at their new home and begin to contribute to the wider metapopulation. 

Cheetah yawning

Be a conservation VOLUNTEER AT IMIRE

We welcome groups, couples, solo travellers and families onto our volunteer programmes.

- To volunteer with your family, find out about our Family Volunteer Programme.
- For over 17s, click for our Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme.
- For experienced horse riders, click to find out about our Equine Programme.
- Interested in pursuing a career in guiding or going into more about conservation and wildlife? Find out about our 6-week Nature Enthusiast Course.

Imire is home to three elephants, 17 rhinos (eight white and nine black) and two herds of cape buffalos. In addition, we are also home to populations of giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, sable and a plethora of other plains game and bird species.

As an Imire rhino conservation volunteer, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work hands-on with rhinos, elephants and cheetah, side-by-side with conservation experts and within local communities. Rhino conservation volunteers play a key role in protecting Africa’s wildlife, and also develop deep intercultural understanding, through working in our vibrant community alongside friendly and like-minded people.

Get in touch to find out more about our volunteer programmes:
Email us: [email protected].