A Cheetah and her Cubs!
Little spots and little purrs… mother nature has blessed us this Christmas!
During the month of October, Sansa, our 5-year-old cheetah, gave birth to 5 perfect little bundles of fur at our facility’s private reserve which forms part of our Cheetah Preservation Foundation non-profit organisation.
We have many reasons to celebrate their birth, with their lineage being paramount. Not only do the cubs contribute to helping the world better understand their species, but their strong and genetically diverse bloodlines make a valuable contribution to the ex-situ population management of the species. Since the inception of the Cheetah Preservation Foundation, our cheetahs have contributed significant data to the global pool of healthy cheetah management practices, research, and education. Due to the growing success of the species global management, and the valuable research conducted, the current population in human care is at its most balanced and genetically diverse in history. Our role, based on our many years of expertise, along with other like-minded facilities, is to ensure that this populace is strategically maintained. At this point, the genetic variability between any two captive cheetahs and any two wild cheetahs are in fact very similar! This is a massive accomplishment, made possible by the many years of hard work by dedicated programs such as ours. Should there ever be collapse in wild populations, almost certainly due to human/wildlife conflict, captive centres will be able to bolster wild populations to secure the species for future generations.
Classified as vulnerable, with an estimated wild population dwindling below 7100, this species is running a grueling race for survival due to the pressures of climate change, hunting/poaching, and habitat destruction. Cheetahs have a low reproductive success rate, and with fewer offspring, the population can neither grow nor adapt to the volatile changes occurring in their human encroached wild environments.
Our cubs stay with their mom for the first two weeks where they consume enough colostrum to ensure healthy cubs with strong antibodies. The cubs then move to our hand-raising centre where our experienced team of carers work around the clock to ensure optimal care for the young’uns. In the wild, the survival rate for cheetah cubs is a shockingly low 30%. Through our many years of experience in cheetah conservation, our developed and proven methods have resulted in a consistent survival rate of more than 90% over the last decade alone.
As members of WAZA (the World Association of Zoo’s and Aquaria), comprising of 300 hand-picked premium animal facilities worldwide, our primary objective is to focus on vulnerable and endangered species management. Based on the above, our goal is to achieve quality lineage through ethical practices and in accordance with the global requirements, which aims our current target of cheetah contributions, to just one litter per year.
A very pregnant Sansa, opted to leave her comfy and secure night quarters and set-up nest in a dense but low canopy of Spekboom, where she gave birth. Thankfully, the weather remained warm and constant, and mom made the entire process look easy.
Sansa is a strong and healthy cheetah, who has the most amazing relationship with her carer, Riette Koortzen. So much so that Riette is able to give her regular examinations that she willingly partakes in; including full body checks for any injuries or sores, (we have a lot of Acacia trees at the reserve), administer hand-injections for vaccinations, and pest control procedures. Sansa welcomed Riette’s presence, even with her new-born cubs. She was able to visit regularly to check-up on them, and Sansa would often get up and leave her cubs with Riette while she would go for a drink of water, or to fill her tummy. The trust is incredible and the importance of this sort of relationship is truly invaluable, not just for us and the work that we do, but for the animal who is almost fully devoid from stress due to the positive conditioning towards her environment and carers, further contributing to her overall health and well-being.
The cubs (two little boys and three girls) already have distinct personalities, according to their doting carers. Of the boys; Xavier is the largest, darkest and fluffiest. He is the explorer of the group, and feeding time is his very best time of day. Xion, the second largest, is already known for his strong-will and determination. Of the girls, Xara is almost always the first one to fall asleep and by the time she is ready to rough-house, her siblings are well on their way to dreamland. She is very easy-going though… with the exception of little bursts of mischief of course. Xena, is unique in that she is the only one of the 5 that has a white-tipped tail. She is described as feisty and sassy, and has the strongest personality of the 3 girls. Xyla, the smallest of the litter, is a very playful busy-body, with a slight flare for the dramatic. Most importantly though, all are in perfect health, as is their remarkable mom.
Just a year ago, around the same time, we welcomed four healthy cubbies to our animal family too. Hence this being the second year in a row, around the same time, that we have been blessed in this way. After what has been somewhat of trialing, still reeling in the aftereffects of the pandemic, the birth of five healthy cheetah cubs is undoubtedly a reason to celebrate! For us and the species, and we are elated!