Ketswiri No Longer Suspected to be Pregnant

By 5 years ago
Categories Limpopo

Unfortunately it is looking more and more like Ketswiri, our female cheetah (Acinoynx jubactus), is no longer pregnant. Ketswiri has been seen quite often in the past week and has seemed to avoid where we thought she may have denned.  GVI has been on high alert these last few weeks as she had been seen hanging around her previously successful den site, roughly 90 days after she was seen mating with both Jabu and Djuma, our male cheetah coalition.  We suspect that the litter died either at birth or shortly afterwards.

One of Ketsweri’s cubs from her previous April 2011 litter
Ketswiri has successfully given birth only one other time to a litter of 5 cubs in April of 2011 (see the blog about her previous cubs). Only one successfully made it past a year old and in November of 2012 she was relocated to Dinokeng Reserve (see blog).  Cheetahs are considered to be the bottom of the predator food chain and cubs have many different threats when they are born, resulting in a low birthing success rate.  To compensate for this, when cubs are born they downy underlying fur on their necks, called a mantle, which extends to the mid-back to give them the appearance of a honey badger (Mellivora capensis).

Jabu mating with Ketsweri
On Sunday, the 17th of March, we struggled with Jabu and Djuma for an hour as they were frantically looking and chirping for each other within the Diamond Block area. Finally, after getting a visual of Jabu loudly chirping and sprinting in different directions trying to find his brother, we decided to find Ketsweri, who was in the same block. After ten minutes with Ketsweri we suddenly heard Jabu’s chirps becoming louder and louder.  As we watched, Jabu stumbled onto Ketsweri and within a matter of moments he completely forgot about his lost brother and instead mated with her. Not wanting to disturb the happy couple, and knowing Jabu was no longer in a panic about Djuma, we left them in peace and continued on with our research drive. Hopefully this means in a matter of 90 days we can look forward to Ketsweri attempting to give birth.

GVI and Karongwe Game Reserve have been working closely with EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust, in their cheetah metapopulation study. This has become an increasingly important project due to the low genetic variability of cheetah and small population numbers. Currently there are approximately 280 cheetah in fragmented subpopulations over South Africa which need to be managed as a meta-population in order to strengthen the gene pool. Due to GVI’s intensive research and data with its cheetah since 1998 have made it a large contributor to EWT’s work. Also, due to Ketsweri’s success with raising a cub in a Big Five game reserve, her future cubs will be well prepared to face any wildlife dangers if they were relocated, making them a crucial component in increasing genetic diversity in Southern Africa. Recently, due to GVI’s contributions to EWT, we have also contributed to an ongoing PhD study by Kenneth Buk on the “Conservation of cheetahs in South Africa’s metapopulation”.  

Kaggie Orrick, Karongwe Base Manager