An Armful of Cheetah Cubs at the Wilds
October 29, 2010
Cheetahs have been born at the the Wilds conservation center for the first time in the center’s history. The first litter was born on October 20. Wilds' staff monitoring the female by video observed five-year-old “Kenji” leaving the cubs shortly after they were born and could see that one of the cubs was still wet and noticeably weaker. Because the mother showed no interest in returning to the three cubs, the decision was made to hand-rear them. The second litter was born yesterday, October 28, and the three cubs are currently being cared for by five-year-old “Kamaria”. The Wilds is located in Cumberland, Ohio.
Photo credits: Grahm Jones / Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
”Everyone at the Wilds is very excited about the new cubs. Our whole team has put a lot of effort into making this program a success,” said Dan Beetem, Director of Animal Management. “At the same time, we are being very cautious. Newborn cubs can be very fragile and we have to monitor their progress one day at a time. We hope that these cubs will survive and go on to be future breeders for the managed population."The breeding of these endangered cats at the Wilds was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for cheetahs.
The AZA, of which the Wilds is an accredited member, strives to maintain a sustainable population of cheetahs in North America. Cheetahs are difficult to breed and these births occurred three years after the first cheetahs arrived at the Wilds when the Mid-Sized Carnivore Center opened in 2007. There are approximately 250 cheetahs in 52 AZA accredited institutions.Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are big cats found on the plains of Africa as well as a small isolated population in Iran.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammal and utilize their ability to reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour to catch and kill small hoofed animals and other prey. Once hunted for their coat, cheetah populations continue to decline due to loss of habitat and conflicts with humans. The gestation period is generally 90-95 days and the average litter size is three to five cubs. They weigh less than a pound at birth. This weekend is the last opportunity for visitors to experience the Wilds during the 2010 regular season. Guests will be able to view adult cheetahs but not the cubs. Special tours are available through the winter months by reservation. Details are available on the Wilds website.