cheetah cubs

Cheetah Cubs at Tanganyika: The Role of Zoos in Conservation

Cheetahs are one of the most iconic and vulnerable big cats in the world, with an estimated wild population of just 8,000 individuals. The loss and fragmentation of their habitat, human-wildlife conflict, and the illegal pet trade threaten their survival. Therefore, conservation efforts are crucial to ensure the long-term survival of this magnificent species. 


Tanganyika Wildlife Park, located in Goddard, Kansas, is one of many zoos committed to protecting cheetahs and their habitats. As a breeding facility, Tanganyika Wildlife Park plays a vital role in cheetah conservation, including the recent birth of cheetah cubs


In this blog post, we will explore the significance of cheetah conservation, Tanganyika Wildlife Park’s commitment to conservation efforts, and the role of zoos in cheetah conservation.

why zoos are good
Tanganyika welcomes two litters of cheetah cubs

The vulnerability of cheetahs

Cheetahs face various threats contributing to their vulnerable status, including habitat loss and fragmentation, human-wildlife conflict, and the illegal pet trade.


Top three factors contributing to their vulnerability


  1. Habitat loss and fragmentation: As human populations expand and encroach on natural habitats, cheetahs lose their range and connectivity with other cheetah populations. This can make it extremely difficult for cheetahs to find prey, mate, and have ample space to raise their young.
  2. Human-wildlife conflict: Cheetahs often conflict with humans when they prey on livestock or venture into farmlands. Unfortunately, this conflict leads to farmers’ or government agencies’ retaliatory killing of cheetahs. Cheetahs can also be blamed for a livestock kill made by a leopard since farmers can misidentify them due to their similar spotted markings. Poachers also trophy hunt cheetahs for their skins and other body parts.
  3. Illegal pet trade: Cheetah cubs are often poached from their natural habitats and sold into the illegal pet trade. Many cubs die during capture and transport, and the few who survive often end up in poor conditions or are abandoned by their owners.


Cheetah population decline and the IUCN Red List status


These threats have led to a significant decline in the cheetah population, with an estimated 7,000 individuals remaining in the wild. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed cheetahs as vulnerable on its Red List of Threatened Species, indicating they are at high risk of extinction in the wild. Furthermore, the declining trend is expected to continue, given the ongoing threats to cheetahs’ survival.


Cheetahs have also gone through a severe bottleneck, which is where their population decreased drastically, and it resulted in them having low genetic diversity. Studies have shown that if a skin graft between an African cheetah and an Asian cheetah is performed, the skin graft is readily accepted by the new host. 


This demonstrates how genetically identical these two subspecies of cheetahs are. With such low genetic diversity, cheetahs can struggle to adapt to changing environments and fight off diseases. 


Conservation efforts are necessary to address these threats and save cheetahs from extinction, and Tanganyika Wildlife Park is playing a critical role in these efforts. This is why the birth of Tanganyika’s cheetah cubs is so vital to the future of cheetah populations. 


Why Zoos Are Good for Cheetah Conservation Efforts

Zoos are fantastic places for many reasons.  You can connect with your family and make memories with your children or friends. Plus, you get to connect with nature, which is shown to have a positive impact on your health. 


Those aren’t the only reasons why zoos are good. They also help preserve rare and endangered species through breeding programs. In addition, Zoos educate the public about animals living in their native habitats and support conservation efforts worldwide. 


Successful breeding programs

One of the reasons why zoos are good is that they help to conserve cheetahs through their breeding programs. Tanganyika Wildlife Park, for instance, has been successful in breeding cheetahs, with 45 cheetah cubs born as part of their breeding program since its start in 2008. These births are a significant milestone, given the cheetahs’ vulnerable status in the wild.


Tanganyika Wildlife Park’s breeding program has helped to increase genetic diversity among captive cheetahs. By swapping cheetahs with other facilities in Africa, the park has introduced new genetics into the captive population, which is crucial for maintaining the health and genetic viability of the species. 


This is particularly important because cheetahs in captivity are often inbred due to the bottleneck causing a lack of genetic variation within the species, which can lead to genetic disorders and reduced reproductive success.

breeding cheetahs
Two week old cheetah cub in den

Education on cheetahs

Tanganyika Wildlife Park’s cheetah breeding program also plays a crucial role in raising awareness about the cheetah’s plight and the importance of conservation efforts. Another reason why zoos are good is that park visitors can observe cheetahs up close and learn about their behavior, biology, and conservation status. 


This educational aspect is essential for fostering connections between people and wildlife and inspiring conservation actions. Additionally, the park’s breeding success helps showcase the potential of zoos for conserving endangered species and their habitats.


We all know cheetahs are one of the fastest mammals, reaching speeds up to 70mph, but there are many more unique facts about them. Here are our top three favorite cheetah facts we love sharing with our guests.


Supporting conservation efforts in their native habitats

Tanganyika Wildlife Park is committed to not only conserving cheetahs through their breeding program but also supporting communities in cheetah range countries. One way they do this is by partnering with Action for Cheetahs in Kenya, a grassroots conservation organization dedicated to protecting cheetahs and their habitats. 


Tanganyika Wildlife Park sells crafts made by Kenyan artisans in their gift shop, and the proceeds go to support Action for Cheetahs in Kenya’s conservation efforts. This initiative not only helps to raise awareness about cheetah conservation but also helps to bring Kenyan artisans out of poverty. 


Poverty is one of the biggest threats to animal populations, forcing people to choose between saving species and feeding their families. By providing an alternative source of income, Tanganyika Wildlife Park is helping to reduce the pressure on local people to exploit natural resources, which can lead to habitat destruction and poaching.


In summary, zoos like Tanganyika Wildlife Park are actively helping to conserve cheetahs through their breeding programs. By introducing new genetics, increasing genetic diversity, and raising awareness, zoos play a vital role in the fight to save cheetahs from extinction.


Contact us here if you want to become a part of the Tanganyika Wildlife Park family to help make a difference and spread awareness. 

cheetah cubs
Preserving threatened species like cheetah are one of the reasons zoos are good

How Tanganyika Is Successfully Breeding Cheetahs To Preserve the Species

The cheetah breeding program at Tanganyika Wildlife Park began with the construction of a state-of-the-art cheetah facility, which is larger than a football field and can house up to twelve  cheetahs. The park acquired its first cheetahs in 2008. Soon after, the animal management program and the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) were consulted to help choose the best cheetahs for breeding.


After several years of preparation, Tanganyika Wildlife Park had its first successful litter of cheetah cubs in 2016. This milestone was the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and expertise from the park’s animal care staff. The first litter was a significant achievement, as cheetahs are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity due to their specific breeding requirements.


The breeding program’s success continued in 2019, with 13 cheetah babies born during the winter. However, the park faced a new challenge – the babies were born in freezing temperatures, which made it challenging to ensure their survival. To address this, the park convinced the cheetahs to breed in the proper season so that the babies would be born in the spring when temperatures were milder. This was achieved through careful monitoring of the cheetahs’ hormonal cycles and by creating an environment that simulated the natural breeding conditions of the species.


“Our cheetah breeding area was designed for the cheetahs to access any yard by having a horseshoe-shaped hallway around the perimeter of the yards and a guillotine door from each yard to the hallway. 


When we start the breeding process, we first close all of the females inside the building. We will then shift the male or males we are going to ‘run’ for the day into the hallway, where they are shifted into each female yard one by one. While they are in the yards, we want the males to be sniffing around, vocalizing and “stutter-barking,” and spraying on multiple areas (really sets the mood). 


Once the males have been in each yard, we then shift them back into the hallway and shift the females out into their yards. Then we observe some more (I hope you enjoy telenovelas). We want to see the females going up to the males to greet them, rolling around on their backs like they have an itch they can’t scratch, and vocalizing between them, especially stutter barking. 


Stutter barking is challenging to describe, but the cheetahs keep their mouths closed and make three to four rapid low barking noises. Picture a sound similar to a dolphin vocalization but with a lower pitch. We also have to pay close attention to which female the male is most interested in, which can be difficult when watching a young cheetah male that has a short attention span and multiple females strutting their stuff. 


He will trot back and forth in the females’ yard, stutter-barking and not wanting to leave that area. As long as both the male and female show positive interactions, we move to the final and most nerve-wracking step: introductions. 


We open the guillotine door once the female is far enough away and let the male in with her (one male to one female). As long as everything goes smoothly, we will leave the male with the female for two to three days. Once they’re ready to go their separate ways, we shift the male back to his yard. After about 93 days, we get to meet some cute fluffy bobblehead cheetah cubs.” -Keeper Ben


In summary, the cheetah breeding program at Tanganyika Wildlife Park has been challenging yet rewarding. From building a state-of-the-art facility, acquiring the best cheetahs for breeding, achieving successful litters, and overcoming new challenges, the park’s staff has demonstrated a commitment to cheetah conservation. By breeding cheetahs and raising awareness about their conservation status, Tanganyika Wildlife Park is vital in preserving this incredible species for future generations.


Hand-rearing vs. mother-rearing of cheetah cubs

Both hand-rearing and mother-rearing have benefits for cheetah cubs. Hand-rearing is where staff step in to care for the cheetah cubs, and a significant benefit is that they are under constant care in the nursery. Staff set up a feeding schedule and record meticulous notes of how much babies eat and how much they weigh daily. 


Also, the nursery can be set to a constant temperature and is a controlled environment. If any health concerns did arise, staff would be able to provide vet care swiftly. Being cared for by people also helps cheetah cubs to become more confident and comfortable in human care.


Mother-rearing for cheetah cubs is where babies stay with their mom to be raised in her habitat. A benefit of mother-rearing cheetahs cubs is that they get to stay in a larger area. An adult cheetah’s habitat has more space compared to a nursery. This larger space can encourage more natural behaviors such as walking, running, and playing from a younger age, which can be important for their health. 


Since cheetahs are built for running, it’s beneficial for them to have access to a larger space for long periods to help build muscle and strong limbs. Another benefit is that they get more natural nutrition from mom’s milk than formula. One of the reasons why zoos are good is that they are working continuously to formulate the best alternatives to mom’s milk to help provide excellent nutrition.


Tanganyika has decided to let cheetah cubs stay with their mom this year. There are many factors to consider that go into this decision:

  • Are the females good mothers?
  • Do they have the ability to care for the cubs?
  • Is it warm enough for the cubs in the barns? 
  • Do we have the staff to hand rear or co-rear? 
  • Are the health risks for the cubs? 
  • Are enclosures safe for newborns and young cubs? 


Since hand-rearing and mother-rearing have such great benefits, Tanganyika has combined components of both options to get the most benefits possible. While mother cheetahs will be raising the cubs, keepers will be there every step of the way. While we don’t have a cheetah cub cam, the keepers will update our guests on social media. 


Mom will provide her milk, her knowledge, and her large home with her cheetah cubs, while keepers will record their weights, provide a meat diet when it’s time, observe their health, and ensure vet care when necessary. Keepers will also be socializing the cubs so that they will still be comfortable and confident around people while in human care.


The Future of Tanganyika’s Cheetah Cubs 

Tanganyika’s breeding program has provided many successful cheetah cubs, which helps increase the number of individual cheetahs in the captive population and increase the genetic diversity within these cheetahs in human care. Also, with the help of Tanganyika’s conservation efforts, wild cheetahs are positively impacted. Everyone can help support cheetahs, and here are a few ways to do so: 

  1. Support conservation organizations: Many organizations are dedicated to protecting cheetahs and their habitats. By donating to these organizations or volunteering your time, you can help support their efforts to protect this vulnerable species. Some of these organizations include Action For Cheetahs Kenya.
  2. Educate yourself and others: Learn about cheetahs and the threats they face, and share this information with others. By raising awareness about cheetah conservation, you can help build public support for efforts to protect this vulnerable species.
  3. Support sustainable tourism: Travel can be a major source of income for communities living near cheetah habitats. By supporting sustainable tourism practices that benefit local communities and protect wildlife, you can help ensure that cheetahs have a future in the wild.
  4. Adopt a cheetah: Many zoos and conservation organizations offer adoption programs where you can “adopt” a cheetah and support its care and conservation. This can be a great way to support cheetah conservation and learn more about this amazing species. You can set up a recurring monthly donation to help cheetahs at Tanganyika here. 


By taking these steps, you can help make a difference in the fight to protect cheetahs and their habitats. Every action counts, and together, we can help ensure that this marvelous species has a future in the wild.


As Tanganyika Wildlife Park’s breeding program thrives, the park’s cheetahs will eventually breed at other facilities. Through strategic breeding partnerships with other zoos and conservation organizations, Tanganyika’s cheetahs will continue to increase cheetah populations in captivity, providing a safety net for the species in case of any unforeseen events in the wild. 


By working together to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse cheetah population, Tanganyika and its partners are helping to secure the future of this regal and vulnerable species. As we continue to learn more about cheetahs and their unique needs, it is clear that zoos and other conservation organizations have a critical role to play in preserving the natural world for generations to come.


For more on baby cheetahs and how to make a difference, read our blog and come support our cheetahs at Tanganyika Wildlife Park today. 


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