She was savagely beaten and locked in a cage. Her fear and mistrust of humans was acute, but she was fortunate enough to be rescued by the De Wildt Cheetah & Wildlife Trust.
In December 2003, after months of recuperation, Sibella was flown to Samara, a privately owned reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. From the moment of her release, everyone held their breath to see whether she would be able to fend for herself. But they needn’t have worried.
Eleven years on, Sibella has outlived most wild cheetahs, proving herself a capable hunter, despite the handicap of her original injuries. She is also an exemplary mother, successfully rearing an astonishing 20 cubs, across four litters, since her release. She was clever enough to give birth on steep mountain slopes to avoid potential predators, and ate only after her young had their fill.
The unspoken bond she now shares with the humans in her new home is also extraordinary – with the birth of each new litter, when the cubs are old enough to leave their den, this wild cat dutifully presents to her human guardians her latest bundles of fur, the very reason for her existence. The degree of trust she now vests in human beings, walking to within just a few meters of them, is simply astounding – given her past suffering at the hands of her tormentors.
This exceptional cat is also the first cheetah back in the Karoo in 125 years, contributing 3% to the wild cheetah population in South Africa through her various litters, and featuring in dozens of magazines, newspapers and television programs across the globe.
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