After weeks of speculation as to whether or not they would ever come back to Londolozi, it has been confirmed that the female cheetah and her two sub-adults have made a welcome return to the property.
Last week we ran a hopeful post after tracks of what certainly looked like the three were found crossing the boundary from the north east. Although the cheetahs themselves were not found, we were confident that sooner or later they would rear their heads once more. Our confidence was rewarded when a few days later, deep in the South-West, Sandros Sihlangu was privy to the amazing sighting of cheetahs mating! A male cheetah (now believed to be one of two in the area) was found with the female and her offspring, and although one apparent mating bout was witnessed, the general interaction was hostile. Interestingly enough though, it was the young female cheetah that was most aggressive towards the male, steadfastly repulsing his attempts to come close to her mother.
It appeared as though the mother was torn between the desire to mate with the male and her instinctive loyalty to her still-dependent offspring.
Cheetah cubs typically become independent at around 18 months of age, although in nature things seldom follow the rule book exactly.
Since we do not know the exact age of the young cheetahs in question, we are forced to estimate their age, which we reckon to be just over a year. So we are looking at another few months before they leave their mother for good. Just because they are still dependent does not necessarily preclude the mother from mating, but the aggression displayed by the young female towards her mother’s prospective suitor does suggest that a male would have a hard time of it if another mating attempt is made.
Cheetahs mating is an event rarely witnessed in the wild. With the low concentration of cheetahs in the Sabi Sands, it is an even rarer event here. The mating can last anything from a day to a week, and consists of short bouts of mating, in many ways similar to lion or leopard:
After a gestation of between 90 and 95 days, up to 6 cubs are born in a secluded location. Bearing in mind the high density of other predators on Londolozi and surrounds, and knowing that in the last 15 years, no cheetah cub born on Londolozi has been successfully raised to independence, any cubs born here will certainly be brought into a world with the odds stacked against them.
Having said that, the cheetahs we have been viewing for the last year-and-a-half have done a sterling job in evading the teeth and claws of the lions, leopards and hyenas that plague them, and nature can always surprise us.
We’ll just have to wait and see…
If all goes well, who knows, we may see something like this in the next few months:
We’d love to hear your opinions below. Do you think the female cheetah will successfully reproduce once her offspring become independent?
Written by James Tyrrell