In April 2010, in the Lowveld area of Zimbabwe, a cheetah gave birth to five cubs. Sadly within two days, in a cruel act of nature, she and four of her cubs were fatally attacked by a male lion, something which is common between apex predators in the wild. The sole survivor was discovered by a game scout named Sylvester, who witnessed the event and the cub was named after him by Norman and Penny English who became his surrogate parents. Norman worked in National Parks and Wildlife Management for many years and now heads the anti poaching unit in the Bubi Conservancy. Penny is a registered nurse and having both their experience was invaluable in the attempt to keep this young cheetah alive. At two days old, Sylvester still had his umbilical cord attached and unopened eyes.

Over the following six months the hard work and devotion from the English family was rewarded but it did not come easily. Feeding was complicated and Sylvester grew faster than his bones could grow but the struggle to find a suitable formula was assisted by the many cheetah experts who passed on information. In time a dietary plan that suited Sylvester was formulated and he  began to respond.
As Sylvester was never destined to become a pet, and being a specially protected animal on the endangered species list, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management have naturally been involved from the outset with Sylvester’s welfare. A  plan needed to be formulated for a future permanent home for Sylvester, and in this regard VFWT became involved.

Despite numerous release attempts, cheetah, apparently, do not survive in the wild without experiencing the maternal care of a mother for the initial twenty two months of their lives. The human imprints of upbringing in captivity are not conducive to a wild release with rehabilitated cheetah often coming into contact with human settlements and being seen as “problem “animals.
The Sanctuary that VFWT operates from has large areas of open vleis where a cheetah can exercise naturally and build up the speed for which they are renowned. With no large predators around and the support from his three carers who exercise him extensively and assist in nurturing  this orphan, Sylvester has settled in to his new life with vigour. Through our educational programme, Sylvester interacts with schoolchildren and guests who visit the Elephant Wallow during other activities. He will become an “ambassador” cheetah, interacting with the public to raise awareness of their peril as a species and the challenges they face being on the endangered species list.

Here in the Victoria Falls region, cheetah are a rare sighting and whilst VFWT respects that the ultimate aim is to promote the conservation of wildlife and are merely custodians of this magnificent animal, funds need to be raised for his upkeep. With feeding, exercise, care and constant companionship, Sylvester has already adapted perfectly to his new environment.

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