A first on many fronts: Amakha

Cubs at Amakhala Game Reserve. Photo: Lisa Graham/Supplied

A first on many fronts: Amakhala welcomes two cubs from captive-born male cheetah

These cubs are said to be “extra special” as they are were sired from captive-bred cheetah, Ivory, who was released into the protected environment of Amakhala last year.

A first on many fronts: Amakha

Cubs at Amakhala Game Reserve. Photo: Lisa Graham/Supplied

Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape recently welcomed two cubs sired by the first male to leave the Cheetah Wilding and Release Project.

In September 2019, exactly a year after the launch of the landmark Breeding, Wilding and Release Project jointly set up by Ashia and Kuzuko Lodge, Ivory, the first cheetah to be released from the project, was translocated to his new home at Amakhala Game Reserve. A month later he was spotted mating with the resident wild female.

“We would like to welcome our newest members to Amakhala, two healthy, adorable cheetah cubs,” states a press release. “These cubs are extra special as they were sired from a captive-bred cheetah who was released into the protected environment of Amakhala at the end of last year,” states Natalie Fowler, resident Ecologist at Amakhala Game Reserve.

Ivory at Amakhala. Photo: Supplied

The Amakhala team suspected for some time that their wild female had given birth but the mother, a wild cheetah, hid the cubs well, only bringing them out of the den after about six weeks.

Fowler was relentless in her search for photo proof and to find out the exact number of cubs. Fowler adds, “They will follow their mother around for the next 16 – 18 months while she teaches them vital survival skills like the ability to hunt their own prey. We look forward to sharing their journey with you as they grow on Amakhala.”

Chantal Rischard, Founder of Ashia said that they are very excited about the two cubs.

“We are hoping for some more photos of mom with the cubs soon. Our grateful thanks to Natalie and the whole Amakhala team for the thorough monitoring and great care they provide for their cheetahs. We are also very proud that the joined project has finally achieved its ultimate goal: raising the cheetah numbers of the South African metapopulation through the birth of wild cubs following the release of once captive-born males and females!”

Cubs at Amakhala Game Reserve. Photo: Lisa Graham/Supplied

Not the easiest start

Gerhard de Lange from Kuzuko Lodge was instrumental in the successful wilding of this male who didn’t have the easiest start in life.

After being used for cub petting, he went through difficult, at times aggressive phases, completely refusing further interaction with humans. De Lange managed to convince the Ashia team to purchase him and to give him the chance of a free life. 

“Thanks to the very special bond that Gerhard established with this exceptional hunter, he calmed down so much at Kuzuko and regained full trust in humans – while always keeping his distance. “He’s such a character!” adds Rischard.

It turned out that the calm and caring but hands-off approach was the perfect recipe for this freedom-loving cat.

About the project

The Breeding, Wilding and Release Project primarily focuses on the wilding and introduction of captive-bred cheetahs and their offspring into the protected wild. The ultimate purpose is to strengthen the gene pool and to secure a viable cheetah metapopulation in South Africa, in order to prevent the further decline of cheetah numbers in the wild.

The release of captive-bred animals has become an important conservation tool for restoring threatened and endangered wildlife populations. The translocation of animals for conservation purposes requires in-depth planning and monitoring to ensure the long-term chances for survival of the released animals. The South African Cheetah Metapopulation, as well as all cheetah translocations, are coordinated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).

Rischard concludes: “It was this very same male that set a huge landmark in our conservation achievement last September: his translocation to Amakhala marked the first of many releases of captive-born and successfully wilded cheetah from the Kuzuko wilding section to a game reserve. We all wish the new family best of luck, and the proud father many more offspring!”

Cubs with their wild mother. Photo: Supplied