Obi-wan was released into Erindi Private Game Reserve on June 28, 2012. He was part of a group of cheetahs known as the “Leopard Pen Boys”. CCF has been working in collaboration with Erindi for many years, we jointly monitor the progress of all released cheetahs and we’re happy to report that six years after his release Obi is alive and well.
Rewildling can be tricky and there are many dangers that come with a life in the wild. CCF’s assessment for potential release candidates is extensive and even when all the “ideal candidate” boxes are all ticked, there is still no guarantee of success. Despite our continued work to create safe habitats and corridors for wild cheetahs, many factors still exist to discourage even our best efforts. Some can be mitigated, like human/wildlife conflict but others are simply part of life as a wild animal.
Successfully rewilding cheetahs isn’t necessarily about them having a long life – most wild cheetahs live only five years and few make it to eight. The cheetahs released with Obi were able to live free for a time and form a coalition of wild males. Obi is the last remaining of the group and is now ten years old. Omdillo was killed by a farmer in 2012, Anakin fell victim to a leopard in 2013, and Chester was killed by baboons in 2016. Chester was with Obi the longest and for four years he was the dominant male of the pair. During his time in the wild, Chester was able to mate multiple times with wild females passing through Erindi. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy will live on through his offspring.
Rewilding is about giving back to the ecosystem as much as it is about giving cheetahs a second chance in the wild. Predators are vitally important within the landscape. They help maintain a healthy balance, keeping wild herds of grazers from becoming overpopulated which can cause a strain on the delicate balance of the savanna.
The risks that released cheetahs face are worth the chances they have to mate and hunt, to build and defend their territories, and to run fast and free; living as they were meant to – in the wild.