San Diego Zoo Safari Park visitors can now see a female Cheetah and her six cubs. The cubs were born at the off-exhibit Cheetah Breeding Facility at the Safari Park on November 21, 2015.
This is the second litter for mother Addison, and it is the largest litter ever raised by a Cheetah at the Safari Park. There are four female cubs (Darlene, Geisel, L.C., and Mary Jane) and two male cubs (Donald and Copley).
Mother and cubs live in their exhibit just off the African Tram Safari route, and while they have access to their “bedrooms” at any time, mom and cubs often choose to stay outside and explore their new surroundings---which include a view of the East Africa exhibit with Rhinos, Giraffes and African Crowned Cranes.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of nine breeding facilities as part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC). The goal of the coalition is to create a sustainable Cheetah population that will prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal.
San Diego Zoo Global has been breeding Cheetahs for more than 40 years, with more than 150 cubs born. It is estimated that the worldwide population of Cheetahs has been reduced from 100,000 in 1900 to just 10,000 left today, with about 10% now living in zoos or wildlife parks.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide.
The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatusis) a large member of the family Felidae and is native to Africa and parts of Iran. It is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx. Aside from its distinctive coat pattern, the Cheetah is well known for its athletic prowess. It can run faster than any other land animal and has been clocked at speeds of 68 to 75 mph (110 to 120 km/h). The Cheetah also has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in three seconds.
Female Cheetahs reach sexual maturity in twenty to twenty-four months. Males reach maturity at around twelve months, but they do not usually mate until at least three years old. Females are not monogamous and are known to have cubs with many different mates.
Litters, of up to nine cubs, result after a gestation period of ninety to ninety-eight days, although the average litter size is four. Cubs are born with a downy underlying fur on their necks, called a mantle, extending to mid-back. The mantle gives them a mane or Mohawk-type appearance, but this fur is shed as the Cheetah matures.
Females are solitary, except when raising cubs, and tend to avoid each other, though some mother/daughter pairs have been known to remain together for small periods of time. When cubs reach about 18 months of age, the mother leaves them, and they form a sibling group that will stay together for another six months. At about two years, the female siblings leave the group, and the young males remain together for life. Life span, in the wild, is up to twelve years, and they have lived up to twenty years, in captivity.
The Cheetah is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Subspecies in Iran (A. j. venaticus) and northwest Africa (A. j. heckii) are listed as “Critically Endangered”. They face various threats, in the wild, including: loss of habitat and prey, conflict with humans, illegal pet trade, competition with/predation by other carnivores, and a gene pool with low variability.
No matter the official classification, Cheetahs are endangered, and their population worldwide has shrunk from about 100,000 in 1900--- to an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 Cheetahs today.