National Zoo has two new cheetahs

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute announced the birth of not one but two cheetah cubs. The two cubs were born to two separate mothers. Find out about the surprising challenges they face, and see some kitty pictures.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, part of the National Zoo, began housing breeding pairs of cheetahs only a year ago. They were delighted when they achieved some quick success. Two different female cheetahs became pregnant. The females both gave birth in December, one on the 6th and one on the 16th. There are some early challenges, though.

Raising young is a tough prospect, especially if an animal is on its own. Cheetahs are fast, but not big, and it takes considerable effort to catch game. Perhaps this is the reason why cheetahs who give birth to only one cub do not produce enough milk to feed the cub. The cub soon dies, and the cheetah can mate again, produces a larger litter, rather than making a huge effort to only rear one cub to maturity.

Since both females produced only one cub each, if the researchers left them alone both cubs would probably die. Instead, after hand-feeding the older one for a little over a week, they gave it to the cheetah which gave birth on the 16th, and hope that two cubs will stimulate enough milk production. Both cubs have nursed from the second cheetah, called Zazi, and things look hopeful.

Via Smithsonian's National Zoo. All photographs from Smithsonian's National Zoo's photostream.