Captive Breeding of Cheetahs in South Africa – 30 Years of Data from the de Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre


  • Conflict of interest: All authors declare no conflict of interests.

Author’s address (for correspondence): HJ Bertschinger, Section of Reproduction, Department of Production Animal Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, South Africa. E-mail:


The de Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre was established in 1971 and the first cheetah cubs were born in 1975. During the period 1975–2005, 242 litters were born with a total of 785 cubs. Mean cub survival from 1 to 12 months and greater than 12 months of age was 71.3 and 66.2%, respectively. The majority of losses (84.9%) occurred during the first month postpartum whereas only 15.1% deaths took place between 1 and 12 months of age. Females were first bred at an age of approximately 3 years, reached maximum reproductive age at 6–8 years, where after fertility declined. Males reached peak reproduction at 6 and maintained this for up to 12 years of age. Male fertility was best correlated with sperm morphology. During recent years, for practical purposes, males were allocated to ‘good’ (≥70% normal), ‘fair’ (40–70% normal) and ‘poor’ (<40% normal) categories according to sperm morphology count. The breeding males were selected from the good (preferably) and fair categories but poor category males were also used at times. Average litter sizes for ‘good’, ‘fair’ and ‘poor’ males were 3.44 (n = 21), 3.14 (n = 18) and 2.28 (n = 18), respectively. In females the heritability for litter size was high at 0.5848 (532 progeny, 1975–2007) and the maternal heritability for cub mortality was estimated to be 0.596. The data from the de Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre and two other centres in the world (Kapama and Wassenaar) demonstrate that cheetah can be bred successfully in captivity.