A report just released by Sybelle Foxcroft, director of Cee4life, which is a non-profit conservation organization specializing in wildlife management including capture and release/relocation projects, exposes the alleged mishandling of cheetah cubs relocated from the Mara Conservancy to Nairobi National Park’s Orphanage.
Three cheetah cubs, one of which died over the weekend, have been the catalyst for an ongoing feud pitting the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) against conservation groups.
The quagmire that KWS finds itself in eclipses the good that they do:
They are relocation experts moving wildlife from one park or reserve to the next. Along with a French delegation they resurrected Meru National Park from utter destruction. They continue working with conservationists preserving the Hirola and Roan antelope species. And despite sometimes insurmountable odds they are steadfast in the war against poaching and the bushmeat trade.
Yet within every organization and government entity mistakes are made.
The 66 page report details a complex web of issues and accusations not readily solved beginning at the conservancy where the cubs were rehabed through May 12th when KWS seized the cubs, transporting them to the orphanage in Nairobi National Park.
Removal of the cubs from an otherwise logical capture/release project appears illogical considering only five adult cheetahs remain in the Mara Triangle – an area that comprises the western third of Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Consequently, the Mara cheetah gene pool is in serious jeopardy.
At the center of the mess is Mary Wykstra who is director of Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK). The non-profit receives technical and financial support from Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), and also works in affiliation with the KWS.
Wykstra says her background is in animal behavior, and her first jobs were as a veterinary technician and zoo exhibit designer.
Among the many allegations: Wykstra never verified any of the information given to her by inexperienced volunteers who compromised the cheetah enclosure. She then sent the inaccurate information to the KWS Carnivore Advisory Committee.
It was also discovered that Wykstra had endorsed a captive cheetah facility – the Soysambu Conservancy. Cat Haven that funds Wykstra’s work would fund the new project that would include cheetah coursing. I asked her if there were concrete plans to send the cubs there.
Wykstra said, “Soysambu Cheetah Center is only a proposal. KWS approved the first submission but state that they were not in favor of the lure coursing (cheetah run). There is still a long process before any cheetahs would be moved to Soysambu – probably another two – three years if National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), local authorities and the second submission for animal transfer is approved and the funding is all in place.”
“I endorsed the Cat Haven proposal because they are experienced in running a top class facility and they understand the need for those animals that cannot go back into the wild to be a voice for their wild counterparts. The Cat Haven people knew nothing about the Mara cubs until the attacks on them began…after KWS made the decision to take the cubs from the Conservancy.”
More of Wykstra’s comments in Part II