Allwetterzoo Münster’s resident Cheetah, Namoja, gave birth to a remarkable litter of seven cubs on April 28. Affectionately known by zoo staff as “The Magnificent Seven” and the “Seven Dwarfs”, Namoja’s large litter is somewhat rare. Cheetahs typically give birth to three to five cubs.
This is the second litter for Namoja and her mate, Jabari. Their first group of offspring was a litter of five male cubs, and all of the boys are now at home in other zoos, throughout Europe, as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP). Since the 1970s, Alwetterzoo has welcomed forty Cheetah births.
The Cheetah is 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. 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.
More pics, below the fold!