Cheetahs have been reintroduced to Malawi's Majete Wildlife Reserve

After an absence of two decades, a small founder population of wild cheetahs has been introduced to Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi. Historic records suggest that cheetahs were present in the region around Majete several decades ago, but decades of habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and poaching saw them vanishing from Malawi.

A cheetah standing in grass in Malawi
Cheetahs were successfully translocated to Majete Wildlife Reserve. Image: Olivia Sievert

This changed in 2017 when cheetahs were successfully reintroduced to Liwonde National Park, and the new arrivals will further strengthen the chances of repopulating Malawi's cheetah population. Four cheetahs were donated by Welgevonden, Samara and Dinokeng Game Reserves and Rietvlei Nature Reserve in South Africa, and they were successfully translocated to Majete Wildlife Reserve, where cheetahs have not been present for 20 years.

Vincent van der Merwe loads a cheetah into a helicopter in South Africa.
Vincent van der Merwe loads a cheetah into a helicopter in South Africa. Image: Johann Vorste

Eradicated from 90% of their historic range in Africa, cheetahs are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and as few as 6700 remain in the wild. While numbers have plummeted due to shrinking habitats and growing anthropogenic pressures, protected areas provide safe spaces that are critical to enabling population growth and range expansion, and to securing a future for the species on the continent.

A truck transporting the cheetahs to Malawi
The cheetahs' arrival in Majete. Image: Rhiannon Jones

Each cheetah moving to Majete was carefully selected via the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Cheetah Metapopulation Project, which creates safe spaces for cheetahs while managing populations across reserves to ensure genetic diversity. It considered a variety of factors when selecting Majete’s founder population to provide the foundations for a diverse and healthy gene pool. The four cheetahs flew to Lilongwe and were transferred by road to Majete. They were released into enclosures, where they will spend over a month acclimating to their new surroundings before venturing into the wider reserve.

Two men transporting a cheetah to Malawi
The cheetah translocation took place between South Africa and Malawi. Image: Jo Taylor

‘It’s really wonderful to be reintroducing cheetahs into the 60th metapopulation reserve," says Vincent van der Merwe, the trust's co-ordinator. "We are grateful to African Parks and the Department of National Parks for creating 750 sq km of safe space for wild cheetahs. Majete has the ecological capacity to support an important viable cheetah population."

A view of Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi
A small founder population of wild cheetahs has been introduced to Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi. Image: John Dickens

The animals are in good health and expected to do well in Majete, where habitat and prey conditions are optimal and measures are in place to ensure their ongoing conservation and protection. The translocation resulted from a collaboration undertaken by African Parks in partnership with Malawi's Department of National Parks and Wildlife and in collaboration with the Endangered Wildlife Trust. For further information about the Trust, see here.