We kicked off Youth Month on a high note with the first sighting of cheetah Shashe’s three new cubs.
Our guide, Daniella was lucky to enjoy this memorable encounter on Thursday, 1 June while out on a game drive with a group of Canadian guests.
“Shashe brought her cubs out for the first time this morning,” she said. “It was so special to meet these little guys. I was shaking with excitement!”
Daniella estimates that the cubs, who have been kept safely out of sight up until now, are somewhere between eight and ten weeks old.
“They are mom Shashe’s (10) fourth litter and almost certainly her last”, says Rodney, managing director and owner of Tiger Canyon.
Cheetah cubs tend to stay close to their mother for up to three years before they set off on their own.
An integral partner in African cheetah conservation
Home to the only wild, free-roaming tigers in the world outside of Asia, Tiger Canyon is best known for its successful ex-situ tiger conservation project. However, we are also a pioneer of cheetah conservation in the Free State.
In 2013, Tiger Canyon became the first reserve to reintroduce wild cheetah to the province after an absence of more than 100 years with the rewilding of four captive-born cubs.
Our cheetah conservation project has been so successful that Tiger Canyon now forms part of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) Cheetah Metapopulation Project. This collaborative conservation effort monitors and manages about 400 cheetahs across some 60 African game reserves. Since increasing genetic diversity is one of the project’s main objectives, cheetahs are often relocated between reserves.
Currently, we are the only ‘soft-release’ reserve in the country where captive-born cheetahs can safely be rewilded without the threat of larger predators (our tigers roam an entirely different section of the property) endangering their lives. Because of this, we are also the only reserve where genes from a captive population can safely be bred into the wild meta-population, thus supporting EWT’s goal to ensure genetic diversity.
Shashe’s cubs are, in fact, the product of such a union, as their captive-born father, Mashai was relocated to Tiger Canyon in December 2021 at the recommendation of EWT. The cubs will, in turn, also be relocated to reserves where mating options need to be increased in a few years’ time.
“We prefer them to be proficient hunters before we put the word out that they are available for relocation,” explains Rodney. “This is normally somewhere around two-years-old.”
Since 2015, Tiger Canyon has donated 10 wild cheetah for relocation to a number of reserves across southern Africa.