Every parent knows the bittersweet ache of watching their children grow and leave the nest, but what happens when your baby is not yet two years old and can already run as fast as a car?
No one knows exactly how a one-month-old cheetah cub made her way under the fence of the Ol Pejeta chimpanzee sanctuary in Kenya in October of 2010. It’s no small miracle that sanctuary workers spotted her before the apes could make a meal out of her, yet great concern set in after an extensive search turned up absolutely no trace of the cub’s natural mother. With nowhere else to turn, sanctuary staff loaded the little cheetah onto a jeep and they set off together on a journey into the world of mankind.
“We have added a new member to the family and we are trying to make friends,” explained Sue Roberts of the Sirikoi game lodge in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in her very first blog post about her latest wild orphan. As foster mom to all forms of wildlife including a baby giraffe and an infant porcupine, Sue was well prepared to be patient in bonding with the cub.
The Cub’s New Home – Cheetah Paradise
On the northern slopes of Mount Kenya, set in a shady acacia grove overlooking a natural waterhole, Sirikoi is the perfect place for the human race to unwind and an even more perfect place for a young cheetah to grow up. The lodge runs on solar energy, has its own extensive organic vegetable and fruit garden and a crystal clear mountain spring.
Before she could begin to enjoy all that this new land had to offer, the little cub had to gather the courage to connect with her caretakers.
“When she arrived she was terrified of humans, lots of hissing and spitting, so it was important to get her trust fast,” Sue explains, adding that they have chosen the name Sheeba for the cub. “To do this we had to be on the same level as her, so we took turns for the first three days to lie next to her and do our office work from the floor. We would sleep with her in a tent on a mattress on the floor and she would gently pat our faces in the morning when she wanted us to wake up.We played classical music which calmed her down enormously, Beethoven was best.”
“This paid off after eight days and we took her outside to play,” Sue continued. “She was no longer frightened or trying to run away. She was now full of fun and joy and confidence and came when called.”
Weeks flew by and Sheeba continued to charm her human companions on their long walks and lazy snoozes together. But her sense of adventure frequently led to mischief. One day, Sheeba decided to go for a climb but was ill prepared to make her way back down the tree.
“We were alerted by her loud chirping cries for help and found her stuck up this very large tree,” Sue said. “She does not like to be lifted so resisted being rescued by digging her claws into the bark. A tug of war ensued but she was finally brought down safely.”
Growing by Leaps and Bounds
“One morning we found her sitting in the bush breakfast car, hoping for a ride,” Sue said. “Sheba has decided that she loves cars, something we have tried hard to discourage as this could mean disaster for visitors to the conservancy should they come across her in the bush, and she decides to join them!”
But when the humans refused to take her for a drive, Sheeba decided she’d take matters into her own paws and she went for a very long walk.
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