By Marco Fitchet
For the last few weeks, one of our adult female cheetahs has been looking for an appropriate den site. Cheetahs have a three month gestation period and like clock work, it was just three months ago that we saw this female being courted by our male coalition. Armed with this knowledge, we had been keeping a keen eye on her location and behaviour over recent weeks to maximise our chances of monitoring any birth that may occur.
Ideal den sites in the Karoo landscape should provide cover from the harsh sun and be a safe haven from other sources of potential danger, such as lions or hyenas.
Last Thursday morning, my fellow guide Chris and I went out to try and find her using telemetry (the radio tracking collars that they wear). We managed to find the general area that she was in, but could not get a sighting of her. That afternoon, I went back out and this time managed to pinpoint her location and got a visual on her. You can imagine my delight when I not only saw her but four brand new cubs as well!
Sanbona’s cheetahs are well adapted to live in our incredibly harsh environment, both in terms of prey density and even more importantly, one in which they have powerful competition in the form of lions. Cheetahs that are exposed to lions and adapted to coexisting with them are sought after. Their genes and offspring therefore are a very important to the conservation of the wild and self sustaining population within Southern Africa. Sanbona and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Programme have worked closely to distribute offspring from Sanbona to areas that require these important animals.
Image by Ranger Marco Fitchet.
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