The first three cubs of a pioneering cheetah-conservation project were born at Kuzuko Lodge on the 15th of March 2019. The birth of these three cubs is of particular significance as they are the first cubs to be born at 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 primary goal of the project comprises the Cheetah Breeding Project, in a secure but natural environment provided on Kuzuko’s game reserve. Kuzuko’s Reserve is host to a Breeding Section that is almost 600ha where captive-born cats are able to hunt, mate and give birth in the wild. The predator-free area allows for monitoring of adult animals and pregnant females as well as future offspring.
The proud mother was already pregnant when she arrived and was the second female to make her way to Kuzuko, she one of three adult females who will be kicking 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 a male and two females who 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.’
About Ashia Cheetah Conservation
Ashia Cheetah Conservation is a registered non-profit company that was set up by Ashia cheetah sanctuary outside Paarl in the Western Cape to manage and finance the Cheetah Release Program. Ashia’s goal is to help prevent the further decline of cheetah populations and increase the genetic gene pool through captive breeding programs. Captive-born cheetahs will be released into the protected wild of selected Private Game Reserves in South Africa. The relatedness of the reserve populations has become an issue and preventing inbreeding without supplementation from outside populations will be practically impossible. Given the limited numbers in the wild, the release of captive-born cheetahs from scientific breeding programs with strict DNA testing and accurate (Studbook) records on origin and parentage is a promising way to respond to the urgent need of reintroducing new genes to strengthen the wild populations.