August 6, 2018  (Web Review)

The Cheetah Children

(2017) 53 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video (www.teacher.shop.pbs.org). ISBN: 978-1-5317-0362-2.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The cheetah is Africa’s most threatened big cat. Sharing its range with much larger predators—including its archenemy, the lion—a cheetah can race twice as fast as an Olympic sprinter. Hosted by Kim Wolhuter, this PBS-aired Nature documentary directed by Robyn Keene-Young centers on a cheetah family with five cubs, who range over vast stretches of parkland in Zimbabwe. Over a year and a half period, Wolhuter was able to win the trust of the cheetah family. The cheetah mother always raises her young alone, feeding and protecting the cubs, while also teaching them skills necessary for survival. Even a trip to a water hole can be full of danger, and crossing a river can be hazardous when the waters are patrolled by crocodiles, while a kick from an impala or other big mammal can cause life-threatening injuries. In spite of her best efforts, the cheetah mother loses several cubs to predators (one a lion) and disease (droughts and floods are also a threat to long-term survival). As with others in the animal kingdom, play can be useful in learning life skills, but the day finally comes when the mother is once again ready to breed. She wanders off, the cubs do not follow, and the family unit dissolves, with the life cycle hopefully repeating itself. Recording one of the more poignant mysteries in the natural world, this informative and entertaining documentary is recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (S. Rees)