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Cheetah Raised by Humans Who Loved Her Enough to Set Her Free

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Sheeba Suddenly Goes Missing

“On Wednesday, her keeper called us to say that she’d disappeared around lunchtime, and two hours later still hadn’t appeared,” Sue recalls of a time when Sue was out of town. “We weren’t unduly worried, as she was becoming more and more independent. But when we went out at 5 pm in vehicles to help look for her, there still was no sign, and by the time darkness fell we had to call off the search.”

“We were hoping she’d caught something and was still feeding, and would reappear at first light,” Sue continued. “She would no doubt be rather wide-eyed after her first night alone in the bush. But she didn’t appear. So then we started wondering if the two males who’ve been around had come by and spirited her away to mate. At over 17 months now, she was bound to be ready for mating. We prepared ourselves for a dishevelled Puddy Puddy to suddenly reappear, with burrs in her fur and a guilty expression. But she didn’t. Nor did she come back on Friday. Nor did she come back on Saturday. We began to imagine the worst.”

And then, suddenly an early morning phone call blew the lid of Sheeba’s caper. “A ranger had found her (or had she found him) wandering along the Marani valley, a long, long way from home. Her keeper Lekoitip was called, and we rushed to the place to reunite him with Sheba. When she heard his voice, and saw him walking down the hill she raced towards him, ecstatic to see him.”

Hot and tired after her long adventure

The Time Had Come to Set Her Free

Sheeba was now straddling two worlds and the time was nearing for her to go free. And no matter how much their hearts protested, the team at Sirikoi knew they had to let her go. Lekoitip, a member of the Masai people, was comfortable walking in the bush with wild animals and his excursions with Sheeba helped build her muscles and make her familiar with all the sounds and smells. It gave her a routine that was as close as possible to what she would hold with her natural mother.

“During the day they would nap under a shady tree before returning home,” Sue recalls. “Sheeba would often catch hare on the way back.”

Lekoitip stayed with Sheba at her new home for a couple of months as she settled in completely and with the help of a tracking collar deploying Google Earth technology, the team was able to pinpoint her location at any given time for weeks after her official release.

Once they were compeletely certain of Sheeba’s established territory and full capacity to fend for herself as a wild cheetah, the ‘parents’ knew their primary role was done. Sheeba’s new home is about two hours away from Sirikoi in an area without tourist vehicles as she still has a proclivity for jumping into the backseat of cars, despite their best efforts to discourage her from doing so.

“We really wanted her to live a natural life so yes, it was heartbreaking to leave her but she was with Lekoitip and she felt totally at home in her new place,” explained Sue, adding that Sheeba was at the age when cubs in the wild would normally leave their mothers and go out on their own.

Bonus Photos of Sheeba

Click here to see more charming and incredible photos of Sheeba growing up and released into her new home.

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544 comments

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1:35PM PDT on May 13, 2014

great article, thanks for sharing :)

7:57PM PDT on Oct 30, 2013

Wonderful story

7:56AM PDT on Oct 30, 2013

That's another good story of a wild animal. I hope that others get helped too.

6:19AM PDT on Oct 30, 2013

This is a wonderful story. Thank you for saving a life and giving a life back. Peace.

7:33PM PDT on Sep 22, 2013

Cheetahs are my favorite big cats, even have one of my own cats is named Cheetah. A wonderful story and I know it hurt, but I am so happy the people put her needs above their own and set her free to lead the life she should. Hopefully she will be safe and have many cubs of her own and live a long happy life.

10:02AM PDT on Sep 20, 2013

Wish I could do this but everytime I see them and connect with them & name them.. I cannot let them go.
So happy you could let go!!

11:32AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

God bless people like this. there is a wonderful quote by edwin way teele, "Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals "love" them. But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more." wild animals belong in the wild. always.

7:02AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

blessings to those wild animal workers who are able to reintroduce their charges back into the wild.

1:33PM PDT on Sep 17, 2013

I don't know if I have to be' glad or sad, I hope Sheba is fine

9:40AM PDT on Sep 17, 2013

Wow, what a journey Sheeba has been on! The dedication shown by her rescuers is tremendous and they have helped her to lead a normal life in the wild; not keeping her cooped up in a cage. I hope she prospers for many years to come. Thank you for this heart-warming story.

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