Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are currently classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The species has suffered a substantial decline in its range due to hunting, and several African countries have taken steps to improve Cheetah conservation. By late 2016, the population had fallen to approximately 7,100 individuals in the wild due to habitat loss, poaching, illegal pet trade, and conflict with humans. Some researchers suggest that the animal could soon be reclassified as "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List.
In light of the challenges facing the future survival of the Cheetah, animal care staff in charge of the new little cub made the decision to hand-rear. After birth, the little female was very small compared to her four brothers and one sister. She could not successfully compete with her litter-mates at nursing time and was not gaining weight. Since bottle feedings began, she is now thriving and gaining weight consistently.
Animal care staff now reports that the cub has a “sweet personality” and is very vocal. According to them, she seeks interaction and attention from her keepers. Although she is still formula-fed, it is now being mixed with meat. The growing cub is eating four times a day and weighs just over four pounds.
Visitors to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can see the curious cub daily in the nursery at the park’s Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center. She will remain at the Safari Park for about three months, and then will move to the San Diego Zoo, to become an ‘animal ambassador’.