This time last year, we shared with you the devastating news that Sibella had passed away during an altercation with a duiker. An incredibly special wild cheetah, she was a true ambassador for conservation whose story ‘From Tortured to Treasured’ has been told countless times around the world.
One year on, her legacy continues at Samara with her two cubs from her last litter. Chili and Pepper were born in 2012, five years after her third litter, when it was thought that Sibella was too old to become a mother again. But lo and behold, she retreated to a steep mountain slope one winter’s afternoon and was found a few days later by ranger Test and Volunteer Programme Manager Hayley with two tiny bundles of fur (watch the video of their discovery here).
She raised her last two cubs in much the same way as she had her previous litters – always allowing them to feed from a kill first, showing them not to be skittish around people, and teaching them how to hunt successfully. However, instead of suddenly walking away and leaving them to their own devices once they approached independence, as mother cheetahs tend to do, she remained with them on and off until her death. We can only guess that in her old age, she relied more and more on them to help her hunt.
As you’ll know if you have been following #SamaraBehindTheScenes on Facebook, Pepper has just been relocated to the Western Cape as part of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Management Project. In his place we have welcomed a new male cheetah who, it is hoped, will be able to mate with Chili and continue Sibella’s lineage.
However, what became of Sibella’s other offspring, all of whom were relocated from Samara to other reserves and national parks? Well, as it stands, Sibella’s genes are present in 15 different protected areas across South Africa, no mean feat for a single cheetah. Some of her adult cubs from her first few litters are still alive, and at the time of her death, she was mother to 9 cheetahs in the Metapopulation Project, grandmother to 10 and great-grandmother to 18.
We’ll be sharing some of their stories in our next blog, but for now, Sibella, Sultaness of Samara, we salute you.