Many years of research are celebrated in the birth of two cheetah cubs at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)—the first cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park facility in Front Royal, Va. SCBI is one of the five partners of C2S2.
The cubs were born to two separate females; the first to 5-year-old Amani Dec. 6, the second to 9-year-old Zazi Dec. 16. Cheetahs that give birth to only one cub, called a singleton, cannot produce enough milk to keep the cub alive. Typically, females in the wild will let a single cub die, after which they will enter estrus and breed again to theoretically produce a larger litter. So scientists at SCBI resorted to an alternative technique. The cub born to Amani, a first-time mother, was hand-raised for 13 days before being placed with Zazi, creating a litter of two that will likely help stimulate milk production from Zazi. Researchers have observed both cubs nursing from Zazi.
“When we realized that Amani had a singleton, we removed the cub to hand rear it,” said Adrienne Crosier, SCBI cheetah biologist. “So when Zazi gave birth, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to give both cubs a chance at survival as one litter under her care without any additional interference by us. Only a few institutions in North American have ever successfully cross-fostered cheetah cubs and this is a first for SCBI.”