SANParks: Cheetah spotting at Marakele National Park adds to visitor experience

2017-12-05 09:43 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - With International Cheetah Day on 4 December and more steps taken to ensure greater protection of the endangered species, SANParks' Marakele National Park says its visitors are in for a treat as "spotting” cheetah has recently become a norm.

"The 70 000 hectares Park is home to predators among other animals and the regular sighting of cheetah has added much more to visitors’ experience," says the Park in Limpopo.

ALSO SEE: WATCH: Cheetah races Formula E car as the world celebrates International Cheetah Day 

A fire in September 2017 that swept through more than half the Park and took firefighters 12 days to extinguish, is believed to have led to regular cheetah sightings.

According to Park Manager at Marakele, Mphadeni Nthangeni, “the fire was a huge blow for us because it took days to put it out. On the other hand fire as a management tool enhances biodiversity by reducing bush encroachment and enabling other plant species, like the protea, to blossom.

"The Park consists of bushveld and after the fire it was more open and game viewing became easier. Antelopes gathered near the unburnt areas to eat and naturally the predators followed.

"Visitors to the Park have said that the cheetah are usually spotted in the western side of the Park and spotting them has added value to this small Park," he adds.

Nthangeni says they are looking forward to the summer rains in the hope of the Park regrowing in the areas that were hit by the fire. "Until then we hope to see more of these beautiful animals roaming around the Park,” he says.

He adds that cheetah sightings could not have come at a better time as it coincided with International Cheetah Day "which serves as a reminder that the cheetah, like all wildlife, is a treasure of the planet and its survival depends on human conservation action."

While Marakele National Park is a small national park, it hosts the Big 5 and is situated about 12km outside of Thabazimbi in Limpopo. Click here for bookings or call 014 777 6929.

Cheetah tracking at Mountain Zebra National Park

Meanwhile, Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP) outside Cradock in the Eastern Cape is celebrating ten years since the reintroduction of cheetahs in 2007 after being absent from the plains of the Karoo for 130 years. 

This Park is renowned for cheetah tracking activity, with six cheetah in the Park that guests can encounter should they participate.

"The tracking involves guests going out in a game drive vehicle with a trained guide who then tries to pick up the signal on his telemetry device which is emitted from the collars of the animals. Cheetah tracking also includes a game drive where guides showcase the natural flora and fauna in the Park," says MZNP.

Cheetah tracking starts at 07:30 in the summer months and 08:30 in winter.  Bookings are essential, as a maximum of eight people can be accommodated at a time at a rate of R400 per person. "The activity is open to people between the ages of 12 and 65.  If participants are older than 65 years and wish to undertake the activity, they will be required to submit a doctor's certificate stating they are medically fit to undertake a hike in rugged terrain," adds the Park.

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