This just in from Ali!
Shortly after you left yesterday I made my way to find Mapula. I met with the manager of the reserve and with the help of a tracker/guide we set off looking for the missing cheetah. This was about 12:30. We headed straight for Eagle’s rock ridge, close to where we had picked up the strongest signal while flying over the area. We climbed the rocky ridge to try pick up her signal. I only heard what seemed like a very feint signal so going with my gut we headed in that direction to climb another mountain. Luckily it was not just my imagination as the next hill there was a definite “beep”. Unfortunately it was in the direction of the boundary of the reserve and also in an area very thick with Mopane bushes.
We drove the boundary road along the fence, checking regularly on every small ridge as we progressed. We confirmed that she was indeed on the correct side and still within the reserve but in an area very very thick and with little road network. We drove along the road to as close as we could to her location and then veered off into the thick bush. It was quite hard going, we wanted to approach her in the vehicle as she is habituated to our land cruisers and not to people on foot. We finally found her resting under a bush at about 4pm!
She got up as she saw us so we quickly turned off the vehicle as not to disturb her, but both Jon and I though she looked injured as she got up. Her hair was a little matted as well. Once she had relaxed in our presence we slowly made our way for a better view of her. We were relieved to see that she didn’t have any visible injury but as she got up once again she seemed to walk in a very strange way. She then went into the bush directly behind her and looked down into it as though sniffing for something. She then slowly walked off to lie a little further away in the shade.
This is when we realized that something was moving in that very bush, and after a little while we heard soft chirps similar to that of a bird and a grey ball of hair moving around!!! Yes, a CHEETAH CUB!!!!! We were so happy to be able to witness what has got to be one of the youngest cheetah cub in the wild!!!
Although we never got a good vision of it due to the thick bush we were able to confirm at least one cheetah cub. Mom soon returned to comfort her little baby and lay down in the bush nursing her little one. We stayed with them for about an hour hoping to get another glimpse of it. At one point he peered at us through the grass and we were able to confirm that his eyes were open. Cheetahs are born with eyes closed and only open after about a week to 10 days so we think that it is a couple of weeks old.
This was an incredible experience for me, probably the best wildlife experience I have ever had! I cannot thank you enough in your help to find our proud new mother!
She is in an area that sees very few lion and hyena activity so we hope she will stay there and raise her little one successfully. I will monitor her over the next few months, with as little disturbance as possible.
Thank you so so much for all your help, I really appreciate it.
Enjoy the rest of your trip and hope to see you again!
All the best