Cheetah cub countdown

Cheetah with four newborn cubs

Cheetah with four newborn cubs

Baby animals are always a hit, and watching their different stages of development is fascinating for everyone on a game drive. Cheetah cubs were a recent addition to the Kapama wildlife family, and there was great excitement and anticipation to watch the tiny cubs grow into adult cheetahs. As a ranger and field guide, I was lucky to see them for the first time when they were just a few weeks old.

Cheetah cubs have similar colouring to honey badgers, which serves to deter predators from attacking them – as honey badgers are one of the most vicious animals in the African bush. It was a first for me, to see an adult cheetah being followed tenaciously by what looked like four miniature honey badgers.


Then we noticed that some of the cubs seemed to be getting weaker instead of stronger. The next sighting revealed just three cubs, and a few days later there were just two left. Every morning on the game drive we would look for the cubs, and sigh with relief if we spotted them. I know I am fortunate to work in one of the most incredible places on earth, but it’s also a place where nature takes its course, and we can’t interfere.

Only one cub remains from the litter of four

Only one cub remains from the litter of four

One night, the female cheetah took down a sizable impala ram, and it was quite a feast for her and her two remaining cubs. We saw them feeding on the carcass the following day too, but that night hyenas stole their kill and, in the process, killed another one of the cheetah cubs. Now there was just one cub remaining.

The next morning, when we found the cheetah with her only surviving cub, she was calling desperately for the others, and not paying much attention to her only living cub. This was not a good sign at all. While she was mourning her dead cubs, she was neglecting to feed or care for her remaining cub. By the following day, it too was dead.

As a first-time mother, this cheetah didn’t know how to handle so many cubs, and brought them out from cover and into the open too quickly. This is likely one of the reasons why they didn’t survive very long. The African bush brings many surprises, and there are not always happy endings. I am sure, though, that she has learnt important lessons through losing her entire litter of cubs, and this cheetah will be a much more successful mother next time round.

Written by Angie Seeber, River Lodge
Edited by Keri Harvey

 

Cheetah kill…

Two days ago our resident Cheetah males managed to bring down a young Kudu cow in a well wooded area just outside Southern Camp lodge entrance. Rather than a full out chase for which they are known for, we imagined that they probably altered their hunting style a bit and opted for an “ambush” attack. The combined weight of these to males was probably to much for the Kudu cow, and they should have managed to bring her down quite easily despite the prey animal out-weighing the predators by far.

Male Cheetah are known to form coalitions, who together will fight off rival males and this also allows them to “tackle” much larger prey than they would normally be able to handle by themselves.

One of the males  injured his paw during the struggle, but it luckily it doesn’t appear to be too serious and he should make a full recovery.

We will however monitor him over the next few days , as even slight injuries can sometimes be fatal for Cheetah, more so if it renders them incapable to fend off other predators or even unable to hunt. Luckily we see them quite often around this area and they are already known as the Southern Camp boys.

We will keep you updated on their progress…

Westley Lombard – Southern Camp Senior Ranger

(Photos, courtesy of Mrs Julia Chan… Thank you Julia!)