During the early hours of a stormy late-summer’s morning on 15 March 2019, the first three cubs of a pioneering cheetah-conservation project were born at Kuzuko Lodge. The birth of these cubs is particularly significant as they are the first cubs to be born on the reserve from a captive-born female cheetah, part of the first wave of cats to be part of the ‘Cheetah Breeding, Wilding & Release Project’, an initiative of Kuzuko Lodge and Ashia Cheetah Conservation NPO.
The breeding area within Kuzuko’s reserve is a 600ha space where captive-born cats are able to hunt, mate and give birth in the wild. The predator-free section allows close monitoring of adult animals and pregnant females as well as their future offspring. The mother who was already pregnant when she arrived was the second female to make her way to Kuzuko, at the beginning of 2019, one of three adult females to kick off the Cheetah Breeding Project. Originally a captive-born cheetah, her introduction to the reserve began in a holding boma, after which she was released into the breeding area where she was soon successfully hunting.
The mother gave birth to one male and two female cubs, aptly named Storm, Summer and Rain by the Kuzuko and Ashia teams. The three cubs will remain with their mother to mature in the protected wild area and learn to hunt on their own. Once old enough to fend for themselves, they will enter the Cheetah Metapopulation Project that will identify suitable game reserves for the offspring born at Kuzuko.
‘We are delighted to have reached this major milestone, in that the first litter of cubs have successfully been born into the project. The eventual introduction of these cubs, once they reach maturity, into the Cheetah Metapopulation Project will complete the cycle that we originally intended – for captive-bred cheetahs and their offspring to make a significant contribution to the conservation plight of this endangered species,’ states Chantal Rischard from Ashia. Gerhard de Lange from Kuzuko adds: ‘The female and her cubs are doing phenomenally well; the cubs are growing daily under their mom’s attentive care. It has been an amazing experience to witness how remarkably well these cats are adjusting to their new home in the wild.’
Article originally appeared in Getaway magazine. Click here to find out more about the project: lstyl.com/CFXV6C