August 2021

Yet another litter of cheetah cubs on Singita Sabi Sand

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Yet another litter of cheetah cubs on Singita Sabi Sand

On the morning of the 20th August, my tracker Martin and I, were lucky enough to find one of the only three adult cheetah seen on the Singita property. We currently have regular sightings of an adult male, an adult female and a sub-adult female, predominantly in the south of the concession.

On this particular morning it was the adult female we were following and after about half an hour she led us straight to the most amazing surprise: two new five-week-old cubs. The cheetah had stashed the two vulnerable cubs in high red grass, in and amongst a guarri bush thicket. Due to their diminutive size and the height of the grass we initially couldn’t make out the two cubs, but when mom called out we could hear the distant bird-like chirps of the two youngsters.

We were then spoilt for the next half an hour as the mother settled down and the two cubs played all around her, feeling comfortable that there was no danger present as the mother was completely calm. We are unbelievably privileged to be exposed to such sensitive and adorable moments from time to time here in the Sabi Sand.

Sadly cheetah numbers in Africa are really low, the species having been heavily prosecuted over the last several decades. There are estimated to be only 7 100 cheetahs left in the wild, and their future remains uncertain across their range. Cheetahs are listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, but after a recent study revealed significant population declines, scientists are calling for cheetahs to be uplisted to “Endangered.” In North Africa and Asia, they are considered “Critically Endangered.”

Cheetahs are frequently killed by farmers, either pre-emptively or in retaliation for livestock predation, even though the actual damage they cause to livestock is relatively minor. Cheetahs are profoundly affected by loss of prey from human hunting and the development of land for agricultural and other purposes. Direct hunting in some parts of Africa for skins contributes to cheetah population declines, as does the illegal trade in live cubs and adults, many of which die during transport.

In the Greater Kruger National Park, the park in which Singita Sabi Sand is a part of, it is estimated that there are approximately 350 cheetah remaining today. A number which has steadily climbed from only 120 in 2011. The biggest threat to the cheetah here are the large numbers of lion which naturally control the cheetah population. This female cheetah on Singita has recently successfully raised two male cubs to adulthood whom have since dispersed from their mothers and fathers’ respective territories (we believe they’ve moved further east into the national park) and will hopefully be siring their own cubs and growing the population of free-roaming cheetah even more.

Only time will tell what will come of this new litter, but we are hopeful that this incredible mother will be successful in raising these two new cubs on Singita Sabi Sand.

Gareth Poole
By Gareth Poole
Field Guide