Kuzuko Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, 11 April 2019 – During the early hours of a stormy late-summer morning, the first three cubs of a pioneering cheetah conservation project were born at Kuzuko Lodge, part of the Legacy Hotels & Resorts Group.
The birth of these cubs is particularly significant as they are the first cheetah cubs to be born on Kuzuko Game Reserve from a captive-born female cheetah, who is part of the first wave of cats to be introduced for the Cheetah Breeding, Wilding & Release Project, initiated between Kuzuko Lodge and Ashia Cheetah Conservation NPO.
The primary goal of the project comprises the Cheetah Breeding Project, in a secure but natural environment provided on Kuzuko’s game reserve. The Breeding Section is made up of an area of close to 600ha where captive-born cats are able to hunt, mate and give birth in the wild. The predator-free area allows close monitoring of adult animals and pregnant females as well as their future offspring.
The proud mother who was already pregnant when she arrived was the second female to make her way to Kuzuko, at the beginning of 2019, one of three adult females to kick off the Cheetah Breeding Project. Originally a captive-born cheetah, her introduction on the reserve started in a holding boma, after which she was released onto the Breeding Section where she was soon successfully hunting.
During a warm summer rainstorm on 15 March 2019, she gave birth to one male and two female cubs, aptly named Storm, Summer and Rain by the Kuzuko and Ashia teams, in commemoration of the tumultuous weather conditions on the day of their birth. As nature intended the three cubs will remain with their mother to grow up in the protected wild and learn to hunt on their own. Once mature enough to fend for themselves, they will enter the Cheetah Metapopulation Project who will identify suitable game reserves for the offspring born at Kuzuko.
“We are delighted to have reached this major milestone, in that the first litter of cubs have successfully been born into the project. The eventual introduction of these cubs, once they reach maturity, into the Cheetah Metapopulation Project will complete the cycle that we originally intended – for captive-bred cheetahs and their offspring to make a significant contribution to the conservation plight of this endangered species,” states Chantal Rischard from Ashia.
Gerhard de Lange from Kuzuko adds: “The female and her cubs are doing phenomenally well; the cubs are growing daily under their mom’s attentive care. It has been an amazing experience to witness how remarkably well these cats are adjusting to their new home in the wild.”
ABOUT KUZUKO: Kuzuko Lodge is built high up on a hill in a 15 000ha private game reserve situated in the Malaria free greater Addo area which is situated in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. This reserve is perfectly situated to start or complete a trip along the Garden Route with. Guests are housed in 24 chalets of which three are wheelchair accessible. Kuzuko is part of the Legacy Hotels & Resorts Group and is a member of the Inqo Investments Social Impact Investment Group, which combines job creation, conservation and social transformation. For more information visit www.kuzuko.com or www.kuzukolodge.co.za or phone +27 42 203 1700.
ABOUT ASHIA CHEETAH CONSERVATION: A registered non-profit company, Ashia Cheetah Conservation was set up by Ashia to manage and finance the Cheetah Release Program. Ashia’s goal is to help prevent the further decline of cheetah populations and increase the genetic gene pool through captive breeding programs. Captive-born cheetahs will be released into the protected wild of selected Private Game Reserves in South Africa. The relatedness of the reserve populations has become an issue and preventing inbreeding without supplementation from outside populations will be practically impossible. Given the limited numbers in the wild, the release of captive-born cheetahs from scientific breeding programs with strict DNA testing and accurate (Studbook) records on origin and parentage is a promising way to respond to the urgent need of reintroducing new genes to strengthen the wild populations.
ABOUT ASHIA: A world-class cheetah sanctuary outside Paarl in South Africa’s Western Cape, Ashia is a mere 45-minute drive from Cape Town. An African name meaning ‘life and hope’, Ashia lies nestled at the foot of the dramatic Drakenstein mountains, providing the perfect setting for its resident cheetahs and the sanctuary’s education, research, fundraising and visitor activities. Ashia was founded in October 2016 with the purchase of a 35ha working farm in Paarl cultivating grapes, olives and guavas. Over a period of 18 months, 10ha have been transformed into the present sanctuary. A visit at Ashia offers in-depth educational experiences about small and big cats in human care and cheetah conservation in action. Ashia it is a not-for-profit undertaking as none of the surpluses leaves the project but for funding Ashia Cheetah Conservation NPC which is financing the Cheetah Wilding and Release Program and linking Wildlife Conservation and Human Welfare. Ashia does not support any cheetah trade. All releases take place at own costs. For more information visit www.ashia.co.za