Cheetah Cubs Born at HESC

Shelly and her four cheetah cubs born early May in captivity at HESC have delighted all who have had the pleasure of seeing them.

Cheetah-faces
Shelly looking on proudly with her cubs.

So beautiful and barely nine weeks old, the four cheetah cubs born at HESC earlier this year still sport the thick coat of fur, or mantle, that is characteristic of young cubs.

The mantle is thought to provide camouflage and protection from predators in that it causes the cubs to resemble a honey badger – an aggressive little creature that is mostly avoided by predators because of its fierceness. The mantle is also thought to help regulate the cubs’ temperature against rain and the heat of the sun.

Cheetah-cub-mantle
The mantle, a silvery strip of fur that runs all the way down the back, is characteristic of young cubs.

The mantle starts to disappear at around four and a half months, but traces may still be
present at the age of two years. After four months, baby cheetahs have the tawny, spotted
coats of an adult. By the time that a cheetah is around 15 months old, it will have reached its full adult size and will have the white tip on its tail.

Close-up-cheetah-cub-mantle
The long fur of the mantle shows up clearly on this close-up.

Due to the high mortality rate of cheetah cubs in the wild, on average only about 20 percent survive to adulthood and between 50 and 70 percent die before the age of three months. At HESC cubs are spared this lot because they are not exposed to predators.

Cheetah-cub-moms-leg
Playfully tugging at mom’s leg.

Baby cheetahs nurse for approximately three months, but this age does vary. If for some
reason a mother cannot feed her cubs, we bottle-feed them, initially every three hours.

Cheetah-family
Loving moments with mom.

Over the years, Lente Roode herself has done this more times than she can remember, as have her curators and guides.

Lente says new-born cubs are very like human babies and need just as much nurturing and love. She says it took trial and error to develop the correct milk formula and that we now also know to add supplements to ensure the cubs grow into strong and healthy adults.

We’ll keep you updated on the progress of our cubs.

(Thank you to our head curator, Linri for the lovely images.)

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