On October 8, Monarto Zoo's Cheetah Nakula gave birth to five cubs - two males and three females, all healthy. The babies were allowed to bond with mom in the den, where they could only be seen via a closed circuit TV camera. Nakula proved to be a very good mother; the cubs developed well and grew big enough to venture outdoors - though it was still in an area that was off-limits to visitors (as seen on the video below).
On January 15, when the cubs were about 14 weeks old, they spent their first day in the zoo's habitat, where guests could finally enjoy seeing the spectacle of Nakula and her five furry cubs running in the high grasses. Carnivore Keeper, Michelle Lloyd said, "It's been nine years since we last had a Cheetah litter at Monarto and, amazingly, Nakula was one of the cubs born in the last litter all those years ago. It's a lot of fun to watch the cubs running around on exhibit; they're very energetic and definitely love the space. Nakula has a big job keeping up with them all but she's doing great."
Monarto Zoo Curator Beth Pohl said the litter is an important addition to the regional population, with the cubs serving to educate Australians about the plight of the Cheetah in the wild. “In the last 35 years we’ve lost almost half of the wild Cheetah population," Beth added. "Currently there’s approximately 12,000 Cheetah left -- however, in the mid 1970's, the population was estimated to be almost double that." The decline is primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and the killing and capture of Cheetah to protect livestock against predation.
Photo Credit: David Mattner for Monarto Zoo
Watch the cubs play with each other and their rather patient mother below.
Read more about the unusual circumstances of these cubs birth, and see more pictures and video, after the fold:
In June 2012, Nakula gave birth to a single cub who was hand-raised by zookeepers to ensure her survival. It’s very rare for a Cheetah to raise a single cub, as the mother’s milk tends to dry up after several days without more babies nursing. Hand-raising the cub was vital for its own welfare and enabled Nakula to immediately re-enter the breeding program.
“Soon after we removed the single cub Nakula cycled again and mated successful with one of our breeding males,” Michelle Lloyd said. “Unlike last time, we definitely knew Nakula was pregnant by her size and behavior. And she actually gave birth after the exact same gestation period as she did with the hand-raised cub - 92 days!”
Watch this video of the birth, captured by cameras placed in Nakula’s den to monitor her through the process.