The princess who grew up with a cheetah
his Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent, a member of the British royal family, is no stranger to the city of Nizams. After having traveled all over the world, he has visited India on multiple occasions. Recently in the city to address a luminaire meeting and raise awareness about Cheetah conservation, the princess shared anecdotes and insights from her time in Africa where she had rescued and raised an orphaned Cheetah cub, Tess, who was an integral catalyst in nurturing her love for the splendid animal. “When I was 17, I went for my gap year after school to Africa to visit my father, who had a farm in Mozambique . One night he got a message from a friend saying that a Cheetah had taken a baby from the village on our land. So in the evening, my father took me along with two hunters and we waited hidden outside the village and sure enough came this Cheetah dragging its injured leg. We realised that it had caught its leg in a trap and that it was lactating. A Cheetah that can’t hunt, can’t survive, it needs fresh kill everyday. My father then sent his two hunters to look for the cubs and they found this tiny newborn baby with its eyes still closed, and he put it in the palm of my hand. That was the start of my Cheetah love,” said the Princess, adding, “As Cheetah s are the fastest land animals, as a French-speaking teenager, I called her ‘Vitesse’ — speed, and soon that changed to ‘Tess’.” Tess and the young princess were almost inseparable. Reminiscing about her time with the cub, the Princess shared one of her fondest memories, “She was very sweet but also very naughty. She would get on the furniture, despite not being allowed to, and would paw at the maid in play.”
Speaking about raising Tess, the Princess shared, “One of the less attractive things about bringing up a Cheetah is that you’ve got to teach it to hunt. Their mothers teach them to hunt. But being her mother, I had to do it. Female Cheetah s come into oestrus in about 2 years and that’s when the males come around. So, I had to teach her to hunt before she reached that stage so she could be reintroduced into the wild.” Although she has now been involved with rescuing multiple orphaned Cheetah s, Tess always holds a special place in her heart, “I was dreading the day when I had to send my beloved Tess to her new life in the wild, but she was ready. However, on two occasions, she even came back to meet me.”
Discussing some of the challenges facing Cheetah s, the Princess elaborated, “The Cheetah population is down to less than 7,000 in the world. One of the main reasons is that Cheetah s only breed in the wild and even then, only two of 4-5 cubs in every litter reach maturity.” For her part, the Princess has been actively involved in conservation efforts of these wild cats and raising awareness about the challenges facing them.