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Hello little cheetah cubs!
Date: 9th June 2014
Mountain Zebra National Park's seven cheetah cubs are a few months old now and they’re all doing well.
Samara’s three cubs were born at end December or beginning January and have been moving around quite a bit with their mother. The three, who make up her first litter, were born in the mountainous Kranskop area.
Nixi’s four cubs were born in February and spent most of their first months in the den, which is also in the south-western Kranskop area. With both cheetah, the dens used were not a hole in the ground (as people might imagine) but under a dense shrub which protected them from the elements and other predators.
The fact that the cheetah mothers chose the remote and mountainous area of the Park to have their cubs is most likely a reaction to the presence of lions, which do not frequent the southern mountainous slopes.
It’s not yet known if the little ones are male or female since this is difficult to establish from a distance in the long grass. The Park’s animals are not handled as they are wild and SANParks practices a policy of minimum interference in nature. Interference and handling with the purpose of assisting an animal is only allowed if a threatened species – such as cheetah – is in danger due to injury or if it is necessary to manage the population.
Both litters of cubs are fathered by Phinda, a male introduced from a KwaZulu-Natal reserve in June last year as part of a genetic exchange programme to introduce new genes into the Park’s cheetah population.
All of the Park’s cheetah were on contraception to limit the population from increasing too quickly but three females were taken off contraception so that they could have cubs. After introducing lions in April 2013, there was a possibility of conflict between the two predators which might lead to cheetah numbers declining, hence the decision was made to allow the population to expand. These cubs mean that the cheetah have successfully come off contraception (cheetah are quite sensitive and in some cases do not breed that easily after contraception) and also that the genetic health of the population has been improved. There are now 12 cheetah in the Park (including the cubs).
Recently, a number of visitors have been lucky enough to spot the cheetah cubs while on drives in the Park. The cubs have been seen on various occasions on the Rooiplaat Loop, along the main entrance road and on the Juriesdam 4x4 loop. Some visitors have even posted photos of the cubs on the Park’s Facebook group: SANParks – Mountain Zebra National Park.
Visitors have the chance of spotting cheetah on one of the Park’s cheetah tracking activities (where a cheetah is tracked by means of radio telemetry on foot with an experienced guide), a guided game drive or a self-drive game viewing outing.
Nixi and one of her cubs.
Two of Samara’s cubs.
Photographer: Rhodes University’s Dr. Charlene Bissett who has been conducting an on-going research project, along with Dan van de Vyver, on the predators and their habitat and prey utilisation
South African National Parks (SANParks) Frontier Region Communications
Tel: 082 888 0201
Regional Manager: Communications
Tel: 082 888 0201