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Bitter-Sweet Cheetah Celebration

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Cheetah Cubs first birthday
Cheetah Cubs first birthday

Orana Wildlife Park's four hand-raised Cheetah, Kunjuka, Shomari, Cango and Mazza, celebrated their first birthday on Friday! Last year, Park staff saved the cats by choosing to hand-raise them, as their first time mother, Kura, abandoned the cubs. One year later, the cats are thriving and visitors can have a personal encounter with them.

During the cubs' first six weeks of life, two animal keepers worked a 12 hour, 7 day a week shift, tending to the needs of the cubs. The keepers' roles included feeding, cleaning and toileting the animals as well as carefully monitoring their growth rates.

Graeme Petrie, Orana's Head Keeper of Exotic Mammals (and one of the two staff who hand-raised the cubs), is delighted with their progress: "It has been a privilege to see these cats develop over the past year. They each have distinct personalities and we still have daily contact with them. They are awesome animals."

Sadly, the birthday celebration is bitter-sweet for Park staff who were devastated by the sudden loss of Kura, the cats' mother, just over a week ago (aged five and a half). The post mortem indicates she died of enteritis but further testing is taking place to provide more specific information. Last November, Kura produced her second litter of cubs and she was a fantastic mother to those four cats (three males and one female). Aged four and a half months, the cubs are old enough to survive on their own, but remain off public display.

Animal Collection Manager, Ian Adams, says the past week has been a rough time for staff: "Kura's passing is a massive loss for us. She was born here in 2004 and made a significant contribution to the captive breeding programme for her species by producing eight cubs. She is sadly missed but her legacy lives on through her cubs and it is nice to celebrate the birthday of her first litter of cats."

Cheetah are a flagship species for Orana and to date nineteen cats have been raised (eighteen Cheetah currently live at the Park). Orana has experienced breeding success with three Queens over the years now. The Park is the only New Zealand zoo currently breeding Cheetah as part of the international breeding programme.

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