May 5, 2009

Orana Park hand rearing rejected Cheetah cubs

Orana Park is another of our local wildlife parks here in Christchurch, New Zealand. We are lucky enough to have three.... which is pretty impressive for any city! I started visiting this one in the early 1970's on my first visit to Christchurch, when it was newly opened as a unique, drive through Lion Reserve. They still have a Lion Encounter, but have diversified their animals and since moving here twelve years ago, I have had the pleasure of visiting it regularly with my children, or through work. Many of our students have been there for work experience. Their successful breeding programmes gain them international attention, particularly the white rhinos and their cheetahs.

The head keeper of exotic animals, Graeme Petrie, once took my family to the business end of the cheetah running, part of the environmental enrichment programme, and to see them racing towards you was amazing.
Visitors can watch these magnificent cats reach speeds of up to 70 km per hour during their exercise run. They can sprint down the 180 metre long paddock in under 13 seconds!

Recently, one of their cheetahs gave birth to four cubs, and then, unfortuately, rejected them.

Cubby love...I guess mum'll never know

Staff at a Christchurch wildlife park are working around the clock to take care of four cheetah cubs rejected by their mother.

One of the female cheetahs at Orana Wildlife Park, four-year-old Kura, gave birth to boys Cango, Shomari and Kunjuka, and female Maza last Thursday.

However, a few hours after giving birth, Kura took the cubs out of her den and left them out without feeding them.
More pictures are at

The local paper took some video of them at the start of the feeding....

and this week we were given an update on their progress...

1 May 2009
Cheetah Update from Naline,
one of the keepers hand-rearing the cubs:
The Cheetah cubs are now 3 weeks old and progressing nicely.
Their weights are:
Shomari (meaning to be forceful) 1329 grams
Cango   1335 grams
Kunjuka  (to be serene) 1336 grams
Mazza    1360 grams 

I also found another excellent article from this blog... thanks Jeff the Kiwi.

Cheetah are a flagship conservation species for Orana and to date eleven cats have been raised to adulthood (plus the four new cubs). This is a significant achievement as only a small number of zoos worldwide have experienced repeated breeding success with these big cats.
Orana’s animal collection manager, Ian Adams, says the park does not normally hand-raise animals: “It is extremely labour intensive and we only do it when there are no other options. Two staff members currently work twelve hour shifts feeding and monitoring the cubs. But these cats are vital for the breeding programme so we had to give them the best possible chance to survive.”
Park staff had been eagerly planning for the cubs’ arrival and had even purchased expensive specialist milk powder from overseas in case Kura did not mother them. The cubs are therefore the culmination of a long term planning effort and a lot of teamwork.

Congratulations Orana Park....hoping for a successful outcome for all these cubs.


  1. They are so beautiful Fi. Thank you for showing these amazing pictures. So sad re mum but the girls at the centre are obviously doing amazing things. Fabulous photos too.

  2. Wonderful photos..sounds like a great park! :)

  3. The cubs are so cute and it is great to read about these dedicated people. Hopefully all their efforts will result in 4 healthy and happy cheetahs.

    I've left you a response on your comment over at my place. Just to let you know that I have huge respect for you Vets!


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