Two New Cheetah Cubs at Smithsonian's National Zoo

Posted on May 27, 2012

Cheetah Cubs at Smithsonian National Zoo

Two 3-week-old cheetah cubs have been transfered to the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Five-year-old cheetah and first-time mom Ally gave birth to the first cub, a male, April 23. However, instead of nursing and cleaning the cub, she abandoned him, which unfortunately is relatively common for first-time Cheetah mothers under human care.

When Ally suddenly stopped having contractions hours later, SCBI head vet Dr. Copper Aitken-Palmer anesthetized her to see if she had additional cubs. They found three additional heartbeats. She performed a cesarean section, a procedure rarely used on cheetahs and one that cubs do not often survive. A team of veterinarians, keepers and scientists worked for three hours to resuscitate the three cubs, performing CPR, administrating medications and rubbing the cubs to dry and warm them. One of the three cubs, a female, did survive.

Adrienne Crosier, SCBI cheetah biologist, says, "Given how rare this procedure is, we thought it'd be unlikely for any of the cubs to survive. But that little female is a fighter. Once we got her breathing, she just kept going. It was a very intense, stressful experience, but among the most inspiring of my career."

Both cubs and their mother were in intensive care for the following three days. The cubs' father, Caprivi, was brought to the veterinary hospital to donate plasma to the cubs to boost their immune systems. The Smithsonian says both cubs and their mother appear to be in good health, but animal care staff is continuing to monitor all three carefully. Because Ally rejected the first cub, animal care staff is hand raising both cubs, which requires bottle feeding every few hours.

Dr. Aitken-Palmer says, "There are now two new genetically valuable cubs in a population that so desperately needs them. So this is really a success for this struggling species."

Photo: Smithsonian's National Zoo