We were so excited to see this cheetah mom and her 2 cubs again, making their return after a few months.
It amazes me how changes happen every day in the bush, and how, when you least expect it, something occurs that still leaves you in awe.
This happened a few days ago for me and my guests, when we got a report that someone had seen this female and her 2 cubs on a neighbouring property – or should I say sub-adults now. I’m pretty sure that none of us expected to hear that!
I am not really sure exactly when last I saw them, but it must have been at least 2 months ago, before they disappeared toward the south.
I was so pleased to see them looking so well. In the wild, it’s a hard life for a cheetah, because they are so over-specialised for speed that it leaves them almost totally defenceless against larger predators like lion, leopards and hyenas.
Cheetahs are considered attentive mothers and cubs, which are born in tall grass or other cleverly hidden sites after just 3 months gestation, will regularly be moved to remain undetected and free of parasitic infestations.
The female painstakingly moves her cubs one at a time, pinching them by the scuff of the neck, which relaxes the nerves in that area and calms the cubs as they travel.
The female brings meat back to her litter when they are still as young as 5 weeks old, and in just 3 months the cubs are completely weaned. By 8 months old they will begin to hunt and make their own kills.
Cheetah cubs gain independence and begin fending for themselves at just 18 months old. Before reaching an age at which cheetah can secure choice territories or settle into fixed home ranges, they become nomadic and wander great distances, putting themselves at risk for attack by other large predators.
Survival during this period is also compromised by competition from other cheetahs and similar-sized carnivores for food.
Some interesting facts on cheetah cubs:
Young cheetah cubs (up to 3 months old) have a mantle of grey fur along the saddle of their backs, which at quick glance resembles the colouration of the formidable honey badger.
This mimicry is believed to deter larger predators from attacking the defenceless cubs, as predators mistake them for the more ferocious and generally avoided badger.
When we departed for the afternoon safari I got an update from another ranger that they had just finished feeding on a prey item. At some stage during the day they managed to make a kill and finish it without being harassed by the local hyena clan. Good news indeed!
Guests were spoiled over the last few days as the cheetahs were spotted again.
Let’s hope they stay for a while. We will definitely keep you in the loop…
Words & images by Ranger Sabastion Wayne.
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