A conservation milestone for Panthera Africa - Panthera Africa

A conservation milestone for Panthera Africa

STANFORD, November 2023 – Panthera Africa, a big cat sanctuary in Stanford, Western Cape, celebrates the successful rehabilitation and release of local wildlife ensuring that three African wildcats, five bat-eared foxes, and a caracal kitten have been returned to the wild.

Three African wildcat kittens were the first successful rescue in January 2022. They were found on the side of the road, the mother had been killed presumably by a vehicle. Upon arrival, they weighed 500g, were malnourished, dehydrated, and had some health issues. Veterinarian Dr Peter Caldwell from Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic, and Caledon Vet, stabilised them. The team at Panthera Africa nursed them back to health with a special diet and supplements. “We ran a DNA test to check their genetics as African wildcats and were thrilled to find out that their genetics were pure and that they can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild,” said Panthera Africa co-founder Lizaene Cornwall-Nyquist. The cats weighed 3kg each on 11 December 2022 before going to Ashia Cheetah Conservation, where they spent a further 8 months on their next stage of rehabilitation.

In late August 2023, the wildcats underwent their final relocation to a meticulously selected reserve. Following a two-week acclimatization period in a boma, they underwent a soft release onto Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in the Western Cape. This method granted them access to the reserve for hunting, with supplementary food still accessible at the den site from which they were initially released.

Nearly two months post-release, the reserve team, utilizing camera traps and monitoring movements, has observed the siblings thriving in their newfound freedom. No recent visits back to the den site suggest that the wildcats have successfully dispersed into the landscape, embracing their independence and fending for themselves.

In 2022, a caracal kitten was rescued from a captive situation. Unfortunately, the mother had been killed by a farmer. Upon arrival, the kitten was visibly underweight, dehydrated, and deeply traumatized from the experience. Through a specialized diet and supplements, including vitamin powder, calcium, copper, thiamine, and kitten pellets provided by Dr. Caldwell, the caracal kitten was nursed back to health. Subsequently, she was transferred to a rehabilitation center and her successful release was overseen by Cape Nature locally in the Overberg area.

In December of 2022 five bat-eared fox pups were found next to their mom’s dead body by a local farmer. Roughly 3 months old and skittish, they kept their distance remaining wild. They were fed a diet of chicken mince and meal worms, with vitamin supplements, pellets, and urgent care prescription wet food. They were encouraged to scavenge using logs and pinecones for feeding in Panthera Africa’s allocated outside area. The pups were successfully released back into the local ecosystem on 2 February 2023 with the permission of conservation partner Cape Nature. This primarily nocturnal fox faces many threats caused by a shrinking habitat. They play an important role in the ecosystem with a diet that consists of 80% termites and dung beetles, as well as small rodents, and other insects.

“It has been an incredible privilege for Panthera Africa to work with and learn from these truly wild animals, assisting in their rehabilitation and eventual release back into nature. We are honored to have worked with and would like to express our gratitude to Ashia Cheetah Conservation, Cape Nature, and Grootbos Nature Reserve for their participation and support. Panthera Africa wishes all the released animals a happy and successful free life.”

Lizaene Cornwall-Nyquist, Founder and Board Director

Founders of Panthera Africa, Lizaene Cornwall-Nyquist, and Cathrine Cornwall-Nyquist had a dream to assist cats in the wild and to do true conservation work. “We saw that the need for a true sanctuary and rescue of the captive suffering animals were needed, as well as spreading awareness and educating the public so that together we can better advocate for the protection of our wildlife,” says Cornwall-Nyquist.

Their dreams were further realised through the addition of a veterinary clinic that was completed in 2022. “With this clinic we are able to provide the best care for our pride, in addition to now helping with and conserving our local wildlife,” says Cornwall-Nyquist, “and we are excited that we can celebrate the start of a new branch of Panthera Africa and the service we are providing for the wild.” On the cusp of their eighth birthday in April, Panthera Africa is making a tangible conservation contribution.

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