The cubs, born in December, treat mom (and each other) like a jungle gym. But what looks like playtime to us is really “cheetah school” for the little ones. As they climb, bite, swat, and wrestle, the cubs learn important skills that will prepare them for a life on the hunt.
Known by all as the world’s fastest animals, Cheetahs can run at speeds of 60-70 mph to capture prey on Africa’s savannahs. Their population is declining in the wild due to habitat loss and persecution by farmers seeking to protect their livestock. Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Due to their unique health and social requirements, these magnificent cats are very challenging to breed in captivity, but the White Oak Conservation Center is one of the world’s most successful Cheetah breeding facilities. Working in collaboration with zoos around the country, White Oak is at the forefront of Cheetah conservation.
Three Cheetah cubs born at White Oak on November 26 are
growing rapidly and thriving under the care of their mother, Sweeney. Zooborns shared photos of the Cheetah cub
trio when they were just one
week old. The five-week-old cubs are
now eagerly exploring their outdoor habitat, though they rarely stray far from
mom, who serves as a climb-on toy, shady rest stop, and all-around
Sweeney is a first-time
mother who is expertly caring for her babies.
White Oak staff conducted a health check on the cubs, but they are
allowing Sweeney to raise the cubs just as she would in the wild.
Cheetahs in the wild are in
drastic decline. These stunning
predators, capable of running at speeds up to 75 mph (120 km/h), are unable to
outrun the threats to their survival.
Low genetic diversity in both the wild and captive populations
contributes to the challenges facing this species. About 12,500 Cheetahs remain in the wilds of eastern
and southern Africa.
White Oak works
collaboratively with the Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos
& Aquariums (AZA) as well as the Conservation Center for Species Survival
(C2S2). White Oak is one of the most successful Cheetah breeding centers in the
world. These cubs are the 145th,
146th, and 147th Cheetah cubs born at White Oak.
On November 26 a cheetah
female at White Oak, a 7,400 acre Florida conservation center, gave birth to three healthy cubs.
The cubs, a female and two males, are being cared for by their mother, Sweeney,
a four-year-old cheetah who was also born at White Oak.
Sweeney had not gained much
weight during her pregnancy, so keepers were surprised when she delivered three
cubs. Despite being a first-time mother,
Sweeney is expertly nurturing her three babies.
For a first- hand account of the cubs’ birth, check out White Oak’s
White Oak is one of the most
successful cheetah breeding centers in the world, and these cubs mark the
facility’s 145th, 146th, and 147th cheetah
“Breeding cheetahs is very challenging and
with only a small portion of the population reproducing, and it’s very exciting
when we have cubs from a first time dam or sire, as this helps keep the
population genetically healthy,” says White Oak cheetah expert Karen Meeks. “I’m
very happy to see a first time mother so relaxed and content caring for her
The three new cheetah cubs
will stay with their mother until they are about one year old. The cubs will then be separated for placement
in zoos and breeding centers, mimicking the natural dispersal process of cubs
leaving their mother at that age.
White Oak works with the Cheetah
Species Survival Plan (SSP) and partners at the Conservation Center for Species
Survival (C2S2) to sustain a healthy captive cheetah population.
The C2S2 consortium is
comprised of five organizations, including White Oak, that collectively manage
more than 25,000 acres devoted to endangered species study, management and
recovery. Together the C2S2 partners
house over 80 cheetahs and account for a majority of the cubs born in North America each year.
Historically, the cheetah has low reproductive success in captivity, but
the space, facilities, and expertise at White Oak and its C2S2 partners have
resulted in increased success.
White Oak conserves and
sustains some of the earth’s rarest wild animals through innovative
training, research, education, and breeding programs that contribute to
the survival of wildlife in nature. The
7,400 acre facility is home to imperiled species from around the world
including rhinos, cheetahs, and the elusive okapi.