The Animal Care Center nursery, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is currently home to a pair of female Cheetah cubs.
The sisters were born November 19. Unfortunately, their mother wasn’t caring for them after their birth, so the Zoo’s animal care staff had to intervene. A team of eight keepers now cares for the cubs, bottle-feeding them a formula specifically designed for Cheetahs. The cubs are weighed daily to monitor their health, and staff also simulate the grooming that the duo would normally receive from their mother.
Although the girls are yet-to-be-named, keepers have been calling them “Yellow” and “Purple” (due to the colors of the temporary ID markings put on their tails). As the cubs grow, the bottle feedings will become less frequent. Zoo staff plans to introduce solid foods at four weeks of age, and when they reach 70-days-old, they will be weaned from their Cheetah formula.
According to staff, guests visiting the Safari Park during the month of December can see the Cheetahs in their nursery, at the Nairobi Station exhibit, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. At this stage in their development, they spend about 22 hours a day sleeping, but they are expected to be more active as they mature. Staff have also shared that the lights in their nursery are usually turned off to simulate the darkness of a den, where they would typically spend their first five weeks with their mother.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of nine breeding facilities participating in 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.