NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15 – The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has defended its decision to transfer three orphaned cheetah cubs from the Mara Conservancy to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage.
In a statement, KWS said it considered provisions of the Kenyan law, the national conservation and management strategy for cheetahs but also the condition under which the cubs were rescued.
“The KWS scientists considered all the available options on the rescued cubs and decided that their relocation to an animal welfare facility dedicated to the care of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife in Nairobi was in their best interests,” the statement indicated.
The remarks come after a request by the Mara Conservancy which wanted the cubs released to the wild.
According to KWS, the cubs had not learnt survival tactics in the wild since they were orphaned explaining that releasing them to the wild was likely to reduce their chance to life.
“It can be argued that the enclosures at the Nairobi Animal Orphanage are unnatural and predispose the cheetahs to a life time in captivity. Considering the consequences of releasing captive raised cheetahs to the wild, providing professional care to the cheetahs at the orphanage is the only other way of assuring them of living,” KWS asserted.
KWS also pointed at past case studies where cubs were reared in orphanages and after being released to the wild, they were never able to adjust and in fact some of them ended up dying due to the harshness by other wild animals.
“Despite the availability of food species, water and shelter in an area, what cheetah cubs learn from their mothers is critical for their survival. Hand raising cheetah cubs in confined areas does not equip them with the skills needed to survive in highly competitive wild setting,” KWS stated.
KWS asked Mara Conservancy to understand that the decision taken to rear the cubs in the orphanage is linked to reports that cheetah survival rates were under threat due to frequent attacks by lions, leopards and hyenas.
“All documented releases of captive raised cheetahs to the wild have demonstrated failures. Wild to wild releases have been seen to be more successful but these too are fraught with difficulties as the cheetahs have to establish territories in a new area, compete with other cheetahs and other carnivores. They end up being killed in such competition or being pushed to the periphery of the natural areas where they get into conflict with people and the result is eventual death of the cheetahs,” KWS stated.
It has meanwhile assured that the three rescued cubs will be well taken care of to ensure their survival.