Centre revels in its animals’ well-being

HOEDSPRUIT – The four cheetah cubs that was born at the end of July in the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre’s (HESC) maternity ward, are almost two months old. 

On July 26 more than 85 000 people from around the world tuned in to Africam.com to watch the birth of these cheetah cubs born with rare King Cheetah genes. 

“The cubs are seven weeks old and doing extremely well. The HESC team has really enjoyed watching the four bundles of fur grow and thrive. At their current age, they are extremely playful and can usually be seen romping around on the grass outside,” said Ms Kylie Stephen, public relations representative for the HESC.

The four were born to mother Meg and father Tristan – two resident cheetah at the centre. What makes this litter special is that their father is a King Cheetah. None of the cubs are as their mother does not carry this gene but they carry it and therefore may give rise to another generation if paired with other cheetah carrying the genes. 

Meg was moved to the maternity ward for this special occasion, and will remain there for the next few months, where she and her cubs can enjoy the natural process of mother-to-infant care – without any interruptions from the outside world. Neither vehicles nor people are permitted in the vicinity.

However, as monitoring is a very important part of conservation, a 24/7 webcam with live video and sound has been set up in collaboration with the team at Africam.

The HESC’s main focus is the breeding of endangered species for release into the wild. These cheetah are released at about four years of age – when they are at their strongest. 

Finding a friend for Gertjie, the orphaned baby rhino, according to Stephen was not an easy task at hand. Skaap, the original companion, was a good mother, but being so old, she did not bond with Gertjie like the centre had hoped. “We were very excited to receive a little lamb named Driesie.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances out of our control, Driesie passed away. We were beginning to give up hope that we would never find a companion for Gertjie.”

Then, on August 4 a three-week-old pedi lamb named Lammie arrived. “We were nervous to grow too attached in case things didn’t work out, but we needn’t have worried. Unlike Driesie, Lammie wasn’t bonded to humans, which meant that it would be easier to bond her with our little rhino. 

“We carefully introduced the two to each other, and immediately, Lammie (who was still uneasy and a little bit frightened from her trip) decided that she would much rather hide behind Gertjie than us. That night, we left her in the rhino’s bedroom, and stayed up to monitor them. All was good.

Lammie was quickly following Gertjie everywhere he went. Very importantly, Gertjie did not show any aggression towards the little lamb.” 

Lammie has been here for just over a month now, and has become a regular fixture at the centre. Where Gertjie is, Lammie goes following close behind. One thing they love about the lamb is that while she is very attached to Gertjie, she will not hesitate to move away when he becomes too boisterous for her. She has quickly learnt to read his mood and act accordingly. 

“Companion animals are important for orphans like Gertjie as they keep them company and also minimise human interaction – which is why we are so pleased that Lammie is here.”

2014-09-15 08.39.32 (Medium) HESC_Gertjie and Lammie_Karien pic (Medium)

Carli Koch
Sports Editor

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