Fantastic cheetah sightings at MalaMala

Cheetah female with her cubs trailing behind - Gary Hill

Cheetah female with her cubs trailing behind - Gary Hill

Our statistics of cheetah sightings over the past while has been exceptional. Considering that the species number fewer than three hundred in this vast six million acre expanse, and that the Sabi Sands does not provide ideal habitat for cheetahs, it is incredible that we are able to see as many as we do.

We all know how special these cats are. Any sighting of them is special. Well this sighting (and the ones that followed over the following weeks) was extra special…

Cheetah mother and cubs - Gary Hill

Cheetah mother and cubs - Gary Hill

It was just before Christmas that we first saw a female cheetah. She is a new female to the area, is relatively young and our archives show that she has not been viewed on the property before. She was spotted walking gracefully through some long grass and can you believe it – four young cubs were trailing behind her?! This is the first time in a few years that cheetah cubs have been found in this area, and you can imagine the excitement when the news came through from the ranger who found them.

Cheetah family - Gary Hill

Cheetah family - Gary Hill

Cheetah family - Gary Hill

Cheetah family - Gary Hill

It is not unusual for a cheetah to give birth to four cubs, and they have been known to accommodate up to six. As with all cats, the cubs are very vulnerable and their chances of survival are slim. Less than fifty percent of cheetahs in the Serengeti survive past three months. We estimate that these four cubs are between 3-4 months old. They still have a decent mantle of grey fur along the saddle of their backs that supposedly serves the purpose of mimicking the colouration of the ferocious honey badger, which helps to deter predators.

Cheetah cubs - Gary Hill

Cheetah cubs - Gary Hill

The four cubs were fairly wary of the Land Rover, but were very comfortable at their mother’s side. While the mother was on the move, the cubs would struggle to keep up, not only because of their short legs having to work overtime, but also because there are far too many distractions along the way. There are all kinds of interesting objects to inspect, obstacles to climb over and siblings to be wrestled. What a privilege to witness these four fur balls running about and bounding after their mother when she reminds them with a gentle call not to stray too far behind. We hope to see more of this family in the future!

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