Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Queenie the super (cheetah) mom

Imvelo Safari Lodges has been helping us to closely follow the development of a special and very successful cheetah family in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe over the past 15 months.

Dr. Esther van der Meer of the Cheetah Conservation Project Zimbabwe remarked 'It is thanks to the sightings and photographs from people like [Imvelo] that we are able to follow the development of cheetah HNP013's [Queenie's] little cubs into sub adults.' On average, cheetah females give birth to 3-4 cubs which are hidden in a lair until they are about 2 months old. After two months, the cubs accompany their mother on hunts and begin to feed on solid food. 'This is generally the time when we start to receive sightings; when the guide and clients of Imvelo Safari Lodges first sighted HNP013 with cubs, the cubs were indeed about two months old.'

Cheetah cubs stay with their mother until they are 18-22 months old. During this time period the mother teaches them how to hunt and how to avoid larger predators. Usually only 2-3 cubs make it to adulthood in areas with lion presence. 'It is therefore an amazing achievement that female HNP013 so far managed to raise 4 of her 5 cubs; 2 males and 2 females,' said Esther. We wonder if it isn't a Southern African record!

The cubs are now approximately 15 months old and will disperse in a few months' time. Initially they will stay together, but as soon as the females become sexually mature, each sister will go her
separate way while the brothers stay together for life in a male coalition. Shortly after the first litter has dispersed, cheetah female HNP013 is likely to give birth to her next litter. In her lifetime, a cheetah female gives birth to around 3 litters.

Guests at Bomani and Camelthorn were treated to the cubs' debutQueenie giving climbing lessons, strolling past camp and more in the last 15 months. Upcoming visitors will have the opportunity to see these cubs disperse and become independent adults, and hopefully see Queenie's new litter in a few months' time!

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