Awkward and lanky! Those are just a couple words to describe the cheetah cubs in Tanganyika’s nursery. Affectionately called bobble heads by the keepers, these cubs are the 10th and 11th litters for Tanganyika’s breeding program.
“Cheetahs are notoriously tricky to breed but Tanganyika is joining the ranks of successful programs across the zoo industry like Fossil Rim Wildlife Park and Wildlife Safari in Oregon.” says Chief of Connections LynnLee Schmidt. “Our program is still brand new in comparison to some of these historic programs and already we’ve had 11 litters, much of that success can be attributed to our ability to dedicate a large off-exhibit area for cheetah breeding.”
But Why Breed Cheetahs?
Cheetahs have disappeared from 91% of their range and there are only 7,100 of them left. They find themselves in direct conflict with humans both competing for space, food, and seen as a threat to livestock. There are two different types of conservation efforts.
- In situ conservation – Tanganyika partners with Cheetah Botswana and Action of Cheetahs in Kenya. Both of these organizations work in different parts of Africa to preserve cheetah in their native habitats.
- Ex situ conservation – Tanganyika and other zoos across the world maintain a population of cheetah in human care. This population acts like an insurance population and could be used to bolster wild populations in the future.
“Only about 5% of wild cheetah cubs that are born make it to adulthood. Many are killed by larger more powerful predators, and others are taken and sold into the pet trade. This is why each cub that is born here at Tanganyika is so very important for the survival of the species” says Keeper Karen.
When cheetahs are first born at Tanganyika they stay with their moms for the first 10 days. After that Tanganyika’s skilled nursery staff takes over for mom, this helps to ensure cub survival and improve their confidence and resilience in human care. While each cub is unique just like us humans they do have milestones that we watch for them to reach.
Day 1 -Baby cheetahs are left with their mother for natural care. Our keepers interfere as little as possible for the first 24 hours as it is very important that they get colostrum from their mothers.
Days 7-10 – Open their eyes but don’t see much more than movement, light, and dark! Weigh between 300-1,000g.
Day 30 – Begin learning how to use their legs and stumble/walk around their pen.
Day 35-42 – Start eating a bit of meat along with their bottles.
Day 45 – Start running program to help with bone development and build their muscles and strength!
Day 56 – No longer using a bottle! Eating meat with milk mixed in out of a bowl.
Day 90-120 – Temperatures permitting – Begin spending time outdoors and moved into the yard by snow leopard exhibit.
How Can You Help?
Love cheetahs as much as we do? There are many ways to help!
- Donate to organizations like Cheetah Botswana and Action for Cheetahs Kenya.
- Support facilities like Tanganyika that are working on ex situ conservation projects.
- Tell your friends and family about cheetahs. The more people who love them the more likely they are to be saved.
- Take care of the wild places in your backyard by reducing your use of single use plastics and caring for wildlife here in United States.
Be sure to peek into the nursery windows next time you visit Tanganyika to see any cubs we might have at the moment!