Rugby World Cub?!

Posted on Thu December 14, 2023.

On 28 October 2023 at the Stade de France, Siya Kolisi led our beloved ‘Bokke’ to a nail-biting victory, and a tidal wave of celebration and unity washed over our proud country. Survival, the spirit of solidarity, compassion, respect, and dignity, the 5 core values of ‘Ubuntu’, echoed from the winning team… and the meaning ‘I am because we are’ resonated in the hearts of all South Africans.

But Ubuntu in this instance is not just a quality or a phrase… Ubuntu just happens to be the name of a 4-year-old cheetah residing at Cango Wildlife Ranch and Conservation Centre, who just days after the Rugby World Cup victory, gave birth to 3 beautiful and healthy cheetah cubs.

There are so 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 are a valuable contribution to their population management as they face the pressures of climate change, hunting/poaching, and habitat destruction.

“The cubs stay with their mom for the first two weeks of their lives, consuming her valuable colostrum, building up life sustaining antibodies to ensure that they are healthy and strong. The cubs then move to our hand-raising centre. It is in this specialized environment where our expert team of carers work around the clock to ensure optimal care for the precious youngsters. In the wild, the survival rate for cheetah cubs is a shockingly low 30% whilst through our years of experience and our developed and proven methods, we maintain a consistent survival rate of more than 90% which has remained consistent for well over a decade. 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 in accordance with the global requirements. This aims our current target of cheetah contributions, to just one litter per year.”

On 5 November, Ubuntu, left her comfy and secure night quarters and set-up nest in a dense canopy of Spekboom where she gave birth. Riette Koortzen, her carer (recipient of the Pan-Africa Animal Keeper Excellence Award), constantly checked on her, and ensured the elimination of any potential external stressors. Riette’s remarkable relationship with Ubuntu allows her to conduct regular examinations that Ubuntu willingly partakes in, such as full body checks for injuries/sores (as there are many Acacia trees at the reserve), administering of hand-injections for vaccinations, and pest control procedures. Ubuntu more than welcomed Riette’s presence, even in the presence of her newborns. Ubuntu wasn’t too phased in getting up to eat, so Riette chose to hand-feed the weary momma instead whilst her little cubbies continued to suckle, and she ate and purred with content. “This trusted relationship is incredible, beyond words, not just for us and the work that we do, but for the animals in our care who are fully devoid from stress due to the positive conditioning towards their environment and carers.”

“Whilst still celebrating the World Cup Rugby ‘high’, we were gifted with this added reason for celebration… the birth of three more South African ambassadors! Without hesitation, we knew that the biggest and strongest cub had to be named ‘Siya’ in honour of our national hero. A fitting tribute to a human, who has spent the majority of his life making an enormous difference in the lives of others, both on and off the rugby field. He is a symbol of all that is wonderful about our country. This respected and dedicated leader, renowned for his hard work, perseverance and determination has blessed our beautiful rainbow nation with renewed hope and unity; much like these cheetahs do in the world of conservation.”

Much to the delight and excitement of local Springbok supporters, Mr Hennie Baartman, Executive Member of Rugby South Africa, toured to Oudtshoorn on Monday 11 December with the brilliantly glowing RWC trophy. “During his visit, he was kind enough to share the moment with us, our little litter, and our Siya. He was kind enough to let us all experience the presence of the Webb Ellis trophy, making our whole story so full circle.”

Siya’s two cheetah siblings, Yuna (meaning kindness) and Yoshi (meaning goodness and respect) further epitomise key attributes of the champion Springboks, who much like the cheetah species have faced adversity and challenges, but against all odds, persevere. And just as Siya leads his team and nation, through hope and strength, so too do these young cheetahs serve as ambassadors for their species, globally.

“Cango Wildlife Ranch, at its very core, strives to educate the public, that the well-being of this planet, and its biodiversity is reliant on us as humans and our impactful actions. The world is dependent on us making better and informed choices for the sake of wild environments and the species that inhabit them. Much like Ubuntu… we are all bound together in oneness… I am because we are… and in the words of our Bokke, we truly are ‘Stronger Together’.”