A Cheetah mom at Burgers’ Zoo in the Netherlands has her paws full with a litter of six frisky cubs.
Born September 14, the cubs have spent the last few months behind the scenes in their den, just as they would in the wild. They recently explored outdoors for the first time.
This is the second litter of six cubs for the mother. The coordinator of the European breeding program for Cheetahs notes that only about 5% of Cheetah litters contain six cubs – most have three to four cubs at a time.
The cubs are still nursing but have started to eat meat. They sport the typical gray “mantle” seen in young cubs, which may offer camouflage. The mantle is shed as the cubs grow older.
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land mammal, able to reach speeds of 70 mph for short intervals. But due to poaching for wildlife trafficking, loss of habitat, and human interference, Cheetah numbers have fallen drastically in the past decades, with fewer than 8,000 remaining in Africa. These cats are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and as a Species of Priority in efforts to curb wildlife trafficking in northeastern Africa.
Zoo breeding programs like that at Burgers' Zoo are key to protecting Cheetahs for future generations.