The Long Walk to Freedom for Bellini


There is something truly spectacular about watching a cheetah being released into the wild. We were fortunate to witness such an event on Saturday 14 April, at Samara Private Game Reserve, in the Great Karoo, South Africa.

Bellini is a six year old female cheetah that was brought to Samara from the Endangered Wildlife Trust, as part of their cheetah metapopulation programme. This programme intends to ensure optimal cheetah genetic diversity by moving cheetah between reserves. We therefore adopted Bellini from a reserve in the Waterberg, where she was related to the other cheetah on the property. At Samara she brings new genes, which may also mean new life should she mate with any of our male cheetah.

When brought to Samara earlier this year, Bellini was placed in a large enclosure (a boma) in order to adapt to her surroundings in a protected environment.

The release of Belini was done as a Birthday present for Mr. Justin Cadbury who was absolutely thrilled to be a part of this special event.  It was held as a secret from Mr. Cadbury by his wife Michelle, his son Leander and daughter Jemina until the morning of her release.  Mr. Cadbury and his family were able to witness Belini walk into freedom from inside the boma which made it even more special.

Just a day after her release we went to go see where she’d moved to and how she was doing. We found her not far from the boma, towards the river, where she was wallowing in the sunshine and seeming completely content in her new environment. After a while she got up and slowly walked towards a large plain where animals frequently graze. We followed her, and she settled herself just out of site at the edge of the plain. The only animal we could see grazing was a large adult Gemsbok, and thinking this far to big a challenge for little Bellini, we let her be. Ranger Shakemore, who found her later that day however, reports that she was stalking the Gemsbok!! She obviously has no fear and a hearty appetite… good qualities for a long and prosperous life on Samara!

Cheetah number under 1,000 in the wild in South Africa and are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

For further information, please contact Sarah Tompkins 00.44.7929150466