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The birth of cheetah cubs at a Limpopo centre was to be broadcast live on the internet for the first time via a webcam on Wednesday.
“We hope to capture the birth so that viewers can see, for the first time ever, how these endangered creatures are born,” said Africam.com spokesman Paul Penzhorn.
“We (will) then follow them (the cubs) through their various stages at the centre, until their hopeful re-introduction into the wild,” he said.
Africam.com already has webcams at watering holes in reserves in other parts of the country.
The cheetah-cam was placed in an enclosure at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, in Limpopo, and went live from around midday on Wednesday.
The mother had not yet given birth, but was due to in the next few hours, said Penzhorn.
“We hope to get tens of thousands (of viewers).”
The livestream would stay on as the cheetah cubs grew, “which would make for entertaining viewing”.
The mother would raise the cubs for 12 months, after which the centre would rehabilitate them for their release into the wild.
The footage of the birth would be available on www.africam.com. The camera would also be used for research purposes.
Cheetahs are the most threatened of the big cats.
The Hoedspruit centre focuses on the conservation of rare, vulnerable or endangered animals. Cheetah conservation is one of its core disciplines.
The centre is also involved in the breeding of endangered or rare animal species, the release and introduction of captive-bred cheetahs to the wild, and the treatment and rehabilitation of orphaned or injured animals which are brought to the centre.
Last week, Africam.com broadcast the hatching of black eagles at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort.
Penzhorn said the webcam was positioned in a way that would not interfere with the eagles and had been made as inconspicuous as possible.
As the nest was on a cliff-face, a custom-made camera rig weighing about 40kg was designed. It had a two-metre long extension arm drilled directly into the rock.
This allowed the remote controlled pan, tilt and zoom camera to swing out from the cliff and provide an unobstructed view of the nest.
The two eagles were an old pair, thought to have been nesting in the same spot for 35 years.
“They have raised many chicks in an environment close to urban areas,” Penzhorn said. - Sapa