PORT ELIZABETH, 20 June 2019 – Following the milestone birth of the first litter of Cheetah cubs in the wild from a captive-bred female, the second litter of cubs has successfully been born at Kuzuko Lodge as part of the joint ‘Breeding, Wilding and Release Project’, set up by Ashia Cheetah Conservation and Kuzuko Lodge, part of the Legacy Hotels & Resorts Group, in 2018.
The four cubs were birthed by another captive-born female cheetah who forms part of this ground-breaking conservation programme, having arrived at Kuzuko Lodge earlier this year already pregnant. The first-time feline mom delivered all four cubs successfully, however after a short while the project team, who had been keeping an eye on her from a distance, noticed that the cubs were not feeding.
Not wanting to interfere too quickly, the team decided to give them a couple of hours to see whether some privacy would assist with their bonding. When the team returned and the cubs were still bundled together, it was time to intervene. It was discovered that the umbilical cord had intertwined the cubs together, not allowing them the freedom to feed.
The very protective mother was lured away with food and the cubs quickly released from the cord. Despite being a first-time mom the female immediately took the cubs back and within no time they started suckling successfully. According to the team at Kuzuko, they are doing very well and have already tripled in size.
“These four cubs are extremely important to us as they represent 1.2% of the current cheetah metapopulation management programme. It was an exceptionally tough decision but in the end, we are glad that we intervened when we saw the problem with the umbilical cord, and even more so that we placed them back with their mother. We are proud of the fact that the cheetah cubs born on Kuzuko will be raised by their mothers and not by the human hand,” says Gerhard de Lange, reserve general manager at Kuzuko Lodge.
The ‘Breeding, Wilding and Release Project’ conservation programme primarily focuses on the wilding and introduction of captive-bred cheetahs and their offspring into the protected wild. The ultimate purpose is to strengthen the gene pool and to secure a viable cheetah metapopulation in South Africa, in order to prevent the further decline of cheetah numbers in the wild.
“Usually, cub mortality in the wild is extremely high and our first-time mom would be lucky to raise one of her four cubs to adulthood. At Kuzuko, where we established a secure but natural breeding and wilding area, we are trying a new way to enhance the chances for all cubs to reach an age where they can better fend for themselves and are strong and fast enough to escape other predators,” says Chantal Rischard, founder of Ashia.
Once old enough to fend for themselves, these cubs will enter the Cheetah Metapopulation Project, which in turn will identify suitable game reserves to move them to, in order to ensure the viable genetic diversity of the species.