Three-month-old cheetah cubs Matata, Kanzi, Gorse and Nia will today venture into the wild at Orana Park in outer Christchurch.
The cubs were born at the park, but were abandoned by their 5-year-old mother Mazza after a long and difficult labour when they were only a few hours old, said the park's head keeper of exotic mammals, Rob Clifford.
Park staff chose to intervene, ensuring the cubs' survival and working around the clock to look after them during their first two months.
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Mr Clifford said the cubs were now eating meat, growing quickly and were extremely adventurous.
Orana Wildlife Park is renowned for its contribution to the zoo-based breeding programme for cheetah, a species classified as vulnerable and considered to be notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. To date, 20 cats have been raised to adulthood at Orana.
The cubs will be on display for scheduled periods during the day, subject to weather.