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NATURE: The Cheetah Orphans

Airs Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

When the mother of two cheetah cubs is killed, a veteran filmmaker becomes th...

Credit: Marguerite Smits Van Oyen/© BBC 2006

Above: When the mother of two cheetah cubs is killed, a veteran filmmaker becomes their new parent. Pictured: Toki and Simon King.

Veteran wildlife filmmaker Simon King takes on a new role in "The Cheetah Orphans" — that of surrogate mother. After their cheetah mother is killed by a lion, Simon assumes the parenting responsibilities for the cubs, Toki and Sambu — a life changing experience that Simon describes as “privileged, humbling and enriching.”

Hand-rearing the brothers, teaching them the life skills cheetahs need to survive, and observing the cubs as they pass through key stages of their development, Simon’s efforts to rehabilitate the cheetahs and reintroduce them to the world of wild cheetahs is filled with delight but also sadness.

Simon becomes more deeply attached to the orphans, making difficult, yet critical decisions that determine their fate. When tragedy strikes, Simon is overcome with emotion, but has to make clear decisions for the welfare of Toki.

Story Update:

The latest information we have on Toki comes from the website of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, dated November 24, 2008. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy would like to announce to Toki fans, that their favourite “celebrity” cheetah is doing well in his secure, 1,700 acre haven within the conservancy. Predator expert, Stephen Saipan, regularly monitors Toki and reports that he continues to live a natural & peaceful life, hunting impala’s and Thompson’s gazelles, skillfully fending for himself.

The only set back for Toki in the past couple of years was a minor operation on his ear, to remove a small swelling that appeared on its tip. The swelling was examined and tested and returned no threatening results. Toki has since fully recovered from the operation. Efforts to find him a mate are still underway, with future plans of establishing a cheetah breeding programme on the conservancy.

Video Excerpt: Nature: The Cheetah Orphans

Orphaned cubs Toki and Sambu, hand-reared by wildlife filmmaker Simon King, make the crucial transition to hunting on their own in the NATURE film "The Cheetah Orphans." The documentary charts King's four-year emotional rollercoaster as he raises the brothers from cuddly cubs to big cats, preparing them to return to the wild.

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