The population of cheetahs, classed as vulnerable in the wild, has just grown by one as Africa Alive in Suffolk, UK celebrates the birth of a new female cub.
Keepers were overjoyed to discover the newborn cheetah cub nestled with first-time mother, Kilima (aged 10), on the morning of 1 August 2021. After spending a few weeks settling into new surroundings, the cub has been vaccinated, microchipped and sexed by keepers, revealing her to be a female.
The 8-week-old cub and Kilima will be gradually introduced to the main paddock in the next few days. The pair are planned to be on show to the public from 2 October 2021.The public will also be invited to take part in a naming competition for Africa Alive’s new arrival on social media in late October.
Mike Woolham, Head of Living Collections at the Zoological Society of East Anglia, said:
“Kilimia is doing very well, she’s very protective as you would expect but has so far proved to be an excellent mum. She’s very attentive to the needs of her offspring and we are very much looking forward to sharing our latest new arrival with visitors to the park. Cheetahs housed in zoos in Europe as part of the EAZA breeding programme provide a potential safety net for the wild population, not to mention acting as ambassadors for their wild counterparts and enabling all zoos to raise awareness of their plight in the wild.
This marks the first cheetah cub birth at Africa Alive in 10 years, with the last litter, which Kilima herself was part of, being born in 2011.
The birth comes as hopeful news given the decline of cheetah populations in the wild. Threatened by habitat loss and hunting, as few as 5,000 cheetahs remain in Africa, while it is estimated there are few as 60 in Asia. The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The Zoological Society of East Anglia, the charity which runs Africa Alive in Suffolk and sister park Banham Zoo in Norfolk, works with the EAZA breeding programme to conserve the populations of endangered animals, including cheetahs. The programme coordinator issues pairing recommendations for zoos all over Europe based on the genetic importance of potential offspring.
The cub’s birth has been a careful plan two years in the making, with Kilima first moved to Banham Zoo in 2019 in the hope she would breed with a different male, Shaka. When this did not result in a pregnancy, a new recommended pairing with male Dayo was issued, and he was introduced to Kilima at Banham Zoo in March 2021. Kilima now resides at Africa Alive, where she is hard at work being an attentive mother to her young cub. The two now live next door to Shaka.
Haylee Parker, Team Leader at Africa Alive, said:
“Kilima was one of the last cubs to be born here at Africa Alive and has been housed at both Africa Alive and Banham Zoo, so it is amazing that she has now given birth at the park as well and is the very proud mum to our newest addition. She has been easy to work with since giving birth, albeit a little feisty from time to time, and it looks like the cub may well follow in mum’s footsteps as she has been copying Kilima with a few feisty moments of her own!”
Visitors to Africa Alive will notice the cub is extremely fluffy compared to adults Kilima and Shaka. Cheetahs are born with thick manes on their backs, which helps to protect wild cubs from potential predators by making them appear larger and more intimidating than they really are. The manes are moulted when cubs reach around three months old.
Tickets to visit Kilima and her new cub can be booked online at: https://www.africa-alive.co.uk/