When two endangered cheetah cubs were born ten days apart at the National Zoo, officials celebrated the event and immediately began to implement a plan to save their lives.
On December 6, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute at the National Zoo welcomed the arrival of a male cheetah cub born to a first-time mother named Amani. Then ten days later a second cheetah mom named Zazi gave birth to a female cub on December 16.
Cheetahs that give birth to only one cub, called a singleton, cannot produce enough milk to keep the cub alive. In the wild the mothers of these cubs typically let the newborn die so they can breed again.
Scientists at SCBI knew it was too important to let these endangered animals die, so they came up with a unique plan. They decided to trick Zazi into thinking she had a litter of two cheetah cubs and hoped it would help her produce more milk and accept the adopted cub as her own.
The team took the male cub away from his mother and hand-fed him for the first 13 days of his life.
Then they put the scent of the female cub on the little male by rubbing their bodies together and placed the two newborns in a nest box.
The animal care staff let Zazi into the den and almost immediately she picked up the male cub with her mouth, set him down in front of her and began grooming him.
Soon after she reached for her biological cub and groomed her. And in about an hour both newborns were nursing from the same mother.
The adorable cubs are healthy and growing like weeds. The staff at SCBI keeps a fascinating diary of their achievements which is available for the public to read. Click Here for the diary.
And on February 7 the National Zoo launched a Web Cam so everyone can watch the cheetah cubs growing up.
The male cub has a silver mantle down his back and the female cub is darker in color. The cubs have not been given names yet.
Cheetahs are primarily found on the African Plains. They once roamed throughout Asia and Africa. Today there are only 150 in Iran and about 12,000 in the African grasslands.
Smithsonian National Zoo