During the early hours of a stormy late-summer morning on 15 March 2019, the first three cubs of a pioneering cheetah conservation project were born at Kuzuko Lodge, part of the Legacy Hotels & Resorts Group.

The birth of these cubs is particularly significant as they are the first cheetah cubs to be born on Kuzuko’s game reserve from a captive-born female cheetah, who is part of the first wave of cats to be introduced for the Cheetah Breeding, Wilding & Release Project, initiated between 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. The Breeding Section is made up of an area of close to 600ha where captive-born cats are able to hunt, mate and give birth in the wild. The predator-free area allows close monitoring of adult animals and pregnant females as well as their future offspring.

The proud 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 on the reserve started in a holding boma, after which she was released onto the Breeding Section where she was soon successfully hunting.

During a warm summer rainstorm on 15 March 2019, she gave birth to one male and two female cubs, aptly named Storm, Summer and Rain by the Kuzuko and Ashia teams, in commemoration of the tumultuous weather conditions on the day of their birth. As nature intended the three cubs will remain with their mother to grow up in the protected wild and learn to hunt on their own.

Once mature enough to fend for themselves, they will enter the Cheetah Metapopulation Project who 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.”

Well done to the team from Kuzuko who, when I visited at the end of February this year, was preparing for this exciting birth – well done to an incredible project as well – I see this being a game changer for the wildlife industry.

Find out more on Kuzuko’s website, here…

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