20 May 2013 by Luke McCormick
One of four captive cheetahs released into the Okonjima Nature Reserve by the AfriCat Foundation has given birth to three cubs, the first such success for the program.
After being released in mid 2012, Dizzy, one of two female cheetahs, carved out a territory for herself in the north-western part of the 200 sq km reserve, but later returned to the south to give birth on 16 April 2013.
AfriCat Research and Park Co-ordinator Louis Heyns said: "Her [Dizzy's] maternal instincts are intact, despite having spent most of her adulthood in captivity.
"She is a natural at moving her cubs around, hiding them in thick bush and now hunting for herself and her cubs again.
"Dizzy is another success story of the Okonjima Cheetah Rehabilitation Program."
On their release into the reserve, the four cheetahs - two male, two female - stayed mainly near the roads and boundary fence, which was more familiar to them after coming out of captivity.
"They started hunting very slowly, killing a steenbok or a small warthog once a week," Heyns said.
"However this was insufficient food to satisfy four cheetahs and consequently we had to supply them with meat on a regular basis."
Female cheetahs are solitary by nature and four weeks after her release, Dizzy broke away from the coalition.
"Dizzy was constantly on the move, making the odd kill for herself, in contrast to the others who mainly stayed in one place, did not hunt and waited to be fed by us every third day," Heyns said.
"Since February 2013, she has been found with a kill every third day - Kudu calves being her favourite."
Unfortunately the other three cheetahs released alongside Dizzy did not integrate as well, and after six months the tough decision was taken to bring them back into captivity so that ‘they can be better cared for'.
"They have now become ambassadors for Africat and are integrated into our education initiatives," Heyns said.