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


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6 Responses to “Cheetah cub countdown”

  1. Melanie Mitro says:

    It is understandable to let nature take its course. The “agony & ecstasy” … “predator and prey.” I do hope the young mother will be able to raise all her young as she matures. I look forward to reading about her success in a future newsletter.

  2. alex says:

    Thank U for sharing your experience with us.
    we are looking forword for staying with you
    alex and maly

  3. Krish says:

    Felt really sad to see how the fate of the Cheetah cubs panned out!
    Still remember vividly our sighting of the elusive Cheetah on top of a tree, during our stay with Kapama, a few years back!
    Hope to revisit soon, for sure!
    Many thanks for sharing this story with us. Hopefully the next one has a happy ending?!

  4. Bruni Becker says:

    I find this very sad, since you are a special place for animals , you should help mom to take care of their babies. Specially since there is already human being intervention. In this case, you are there to help. I do not believe in letting nature taking it course, sorry!
    And i was once a guest at Kapama Lodge and loved it and hopefully will be back more time.

  5. Martha Kobliska says:

    Thanks for sharing this story. it is fascinating to read about the reality of life for these animals.

  6. Henri Bartholome says:

    For sharing your experience with us , THANK YOU from a tourist guide.

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