These images and video were taken on the 25th of March when the cheetah cubs were about seven weeks old. Initially, there were five, however one was a little bit smaller than the others and was lagging behind. When the mother brought them out a week later, there were only four cubs left, and we don’t know what happened to the other one. When they are so small, they look like honey badgers, which usually keeps other predators away for a little while. After they lose their black and white hair, they are more at risk of being killed by other predators since they don’t look like the fearless honey badgers anymore. This is the point where we all just close our eyes and can’t wait for the cubs to grow up fast. So basically for the next four months.
In 2014 one of our female cheetahs had four cubs, of which only two survived, one male and one female. The male was sent to Madikwe at the beginning of 2016, where he was bonded with another male. They are doing very well together; he is the dominant one of the two and has fathered some cubs of his own. The female cheetah (the mother of the two) disappeared after she again had cubs and we were never able to find out what happened to her and those cubs.
Halfway through 2016, another young female had four cubs, of which again only two survived. She was our only female back then and unfortunately, she died leaving behind two six-month-old boys. We kept them in a boma without human contact so that they would remain wild. A year later they were released onto Mkhuze Game Reserve, where they successfully hunted for themselves. It was such an achievement for us!
So it is an absolute delight for us to see these new four cubs on our reserve, but it is important to note that they are still small and may not survive, as once cubs start moving with their mother, they and the mother become vulnerable. Our wildlife team are being kept extremely busy monitoring the cheetahs, but ultimately, nature cannot be controlled. So every week that passes gives us hope.
Story by Mariana Venter