Big cats and other carnivores have been on the decline for a long time as they have nowhere to go. Farmers do not want them eating up their livestock and humanity’s footprint is continuously increasing. Hunters make them trophies or just kill them for sport. Others are taken to zoos around the world. To see these animals driven to extinction is terrible; as they are so beautiful and deserve to survive. That is why we support the AfriCat Foundation.
What is AfriCat?
The AfriCat Foundation is focused on the long-term conservation of carnivores in their natural habitat. We were able to see this first hand when we visited the Okonjima Nature Reserve in Namibia. It was quite fascinating to witness the educational program as part of the two game drives we went on. Our guide went into detail on the mission of AfriCat which is broken up into these four categories:
- Providing Care for Non-Releasable cats
- Veterinary Research
- Human- Wildlife Conflict Mitigation
When AfriCat first started, they believed taking cheetahs from the farmland would help solve the conflict with farmers. They told farmers not to shoot them and that they would take them. As a result, only the baby cheetahs were brought to the reserve. This was a problem because these cats could not be released back into the wild. Growing up in captivity where they have never hunted before or seen other predators meant that releasing them would be a death sentence. So they stopped taking in the baby cheetahs and refocused on educating the public.
Cheetahs need a lot of land for their territory (100 square kilometers), and most can’t be released in the main Okonjima reserve. This is because of the other predators in the park such as leopards and hyenas, which can easily kill them or steal their kills. Cheetahs are also very selective about which animals they hunt. They will eat springbok, impala, gazelle, birds, and the babies of some of the larger animals.
Today there are about 15 cheetahs in the park, but only one female is in the main reserve because it is already familiar with how to stay away from the leopards and other predators. The other cheetahs occupy some smaller fenced areas outside of the main park. AfriCat’s cheetah population is at capacity, so they cannot receive any more. Etosha National Park would make the perfect home for cheetahs, but there are lions there, and they would also pose a threat to the much smaller cheetahs. They have never seen a lion and would unfortunately not survive an encounter.
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There are currently about 35 leopards on the reserve. When removing leopards from their territory, another will simply take its place. While farmers just want to shoot them for a quick fix, this doesn’t stop their preying on their livestock.
Leopards are also very territorial. One of the leopards we saw on our game drive really wanted to leave under the electric fence. This was likely because of pressure from another leopard in the park. If there is a conflict one may be severely injured or killed.
Going to this reserve and learning about the animals was an enlightening experience for us. We came to see the cats, and we left with the knowledge of these predators’ plight and how we can help. The mission of AfriCat is easy to support as they are trying to keep the numbers of big cats from continuously declining. If you would also like to support them, you can donate here.
What types of causes do you like to support while you travel?
Psst… do you love reading about wildlife? You might also enjoy these:
- Okonjima Nature Reserve – The African Cat Experience
- The Ultimate Etosha National Park Wildlife Viewing Guide
- 5-Day Backpacking Trip – Brown Bears in Alaska
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