A never-seen-before wildlife phenomenon is happening on the plains of South Africa’s Great Karoo wilderness: the appearance of an extraordinary cheetah family – with nine cubs!
In June, 2020, two cheetah mothers met up by chance. One mother named Chilli has five cubs, the other, named Inara, has four. It’s rare to see such a gigantic brood in one place. Rarer still to see two adult mothers tolerate one another and each other’s offspring! The cubs, being cubs, simply fell in together, delighted at the opportunity for more playmates.
Then, a strange thing happened. Instead of going their separate ways, these cats stayed together and became one huge cheetah family, with the mothers nursing each other’s cubs and hunting together.
Two mothers. Nine cubs. One family.
This remarkable event was captured on camera on the first day of filming for a new series about the cheetahs of Samara Game Reserve. We hadn’t anticipated it, but this story appeared at just the right moment. And we haven’t stopped filming.
What happened that day is still reverberating through these animals’ lives. Their story is full of surprises and wonder. Heart-warming, but also heart-wrenching, for with greater numbers come greater problems. A single kill doesn’t feed eleven as well as five or six. But a hungry cub can nurse from its second mom if the first isn’t there. With a group this size, there is also tension, especially between the adults, when one mother wants all the cubs to herself.
This series, “CHEETAHS UNITED”, follows the ups and downs of the first year in the lives of this unusual family of cheetahs.
Episode 1: Nine Cubs
Episode 1 tells the creation of an extraordinary cheetah family. A random meeting of two cheetah mothers and their nine cubs results in a fusion of these two families into one. From that point onwards, these animals find themselves under pressures and circumstances no other cheetah family has faced before. This is a story of dueling mothers, Chilli and Inara, who nonetheless nurse each other’s cubs. It’s a story of cubs preferentially switching mothers. It’s the story of their struggle to survive the harsh rules of wild Africa.
Episode 2: Struggle to Survive
Episode 2 follows the cheetah family through the many struggles of survival. With growing cubs, the pressure is on the mothers to hunt daily to feed their brood. The cubs are now 4-5 months old and beginning to explore their world. Inevitably, they confront many dangers and hardships. Now the two mothers face the greatest struggle possible: to keep their nine cubs alive against terrible odds. The challenge pushes them into behaviour not normally seen by cheetahs – like hunting at night. By now, the cheetah cubs’ personalities are beginning to show: some are confident, some adventurous, all are playful. But a crisis hits the family when one of the mothers inexplicably abandons the five cubs in her care – and three go missing.
Episode 3 Hunt or Perish
Episode 3 follows the cubs, from the age of 6 to 10 months, as they learn crucial skills to survive Africa’s fierce wilderness. This will be an action-filled episode as our cubs take on the world. Most importantly, they are beginning to learn to hunt. Their mother Chilli now has an enormous task, to keep all these cubs fed and alive, and to teach them how to hunt for themselves. The growing cubs need more and more food, and soon Chilli won’t be able to keep up with their demands. The cubs need to begin to hunt for themselves. This is also the time when Inara may give birth, if her recent encounter with the male Sam resulted in pregnancy. Yet more cheetah cubs may be on the way!