Volunteers at Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre have been busy this last month, relocating two leopard to Majete Wildlife Reserve, situated in Malawi’s lower Shire valley. The two young leopards are the first to be introduced to Malawi across international borders and the first leopards to make their home in Majete for nearly two decades!
In a complex translocation project that took months to prepare, the two young leopards were flown to Malawi early on Friday 7 October on-board a private plane. Wildlife vet Dr. Hein Muller had to tranquilise both animals for the duration of the ten hour journey and keep a constant vigil due to the length of time involved.
The leopards, a male and a female between two and three years old, were captured in Kruger National Park and a private farm near Ohrigstad respectively. Both animals were in conflict with human activity and had been identified for removal. As only one viable population of leopard remains in Malawi – in Nyika National Park – African Parks identified South Africa as an appropriate source of leopards for the Majete restocking programme. A total of eight leopards will be introduced to the 70 000 hectare Majete Wildlife Reserve over the next few months.
Great fanfare and excitement greeted the leopards’ arrival at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre on Friday afternoon. After being transferred to purpose-built cages, watched by wildlife officials and park management, they were transported to Majete by road and finally offloaded at bomas on the reserve. Here Dr. Muller administered a reversal drug to revive them. By Saturday both leopards had made a full recovery and had settled down well into their bomas. The male leopard was released into the reserve early on Friday 14th October and the female shortly after. From the looks of the gps tracking, it seems like the male is doing well and has had a few kills and that the female is now following his tracks. We do hope that eventually they will breed!
The journey required some organisation, darting and loading the two leopard onto a flight to their new home!
The leopards moved to Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi as part of a repopulation initiative started in 2003 by Dr Anthony Hall Martin and other organisations. In the 1980’s the area of about 75.000 hectares had virtually no animals left. 30 animals were counted, this including duikers and warthogs. With a lot of community work they have now been able to help the community feel and care about these animals, as this new reserve gives employment to over 2500 people.
A fantastic initiative to development working with local communities, the people that now passionately protect the animals in the reserve are the same ones that nearly 20 years ago were poaching all of them. Having reintroduced more that 400 elephants, buffalo, sable antelope and 12 black rhinos. it was now the turn for the predators. Only lions and leopards will be re introduced in the area as these are the ones that we have historical records of living in the area. They are looking to introduce 8 leopards eventually and the lions will be reintroduced next year to finalise the project.
It has been a great success and proud movement for Moholoholo assisting in the team to reintroduce wildlife where humans had almost extinguished it.
Alongside this relocation, Moholoholo have seen the arrival of a baby bushbaby and two palm swifts over the last month, and released two genets last week!