Five adorable cheetah cubs born at the Monarto Zoo, near Adelaide, Australia, made their official debut last week after being kept in the den with their mother, Nakula, since their birth in October 2012. The five healthy cubs, two males and three females, were kept out of the public eye in order to assure their survival after their mom lost her entire first litter in 2008.
Incredibly cute cheetah cubs have been making headlines with regularity recently. In April of last year, two cubs were born in a life and death struggle at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia. After giving birth to her first cub, the mother suddenly stopped having contractions and only one of the three remaining cubs was saved by an emergency cesarean section.
Now the five little Australian cheetah tykes are finally out and about, running through the high grass of their outdoor habitat with their proud mother and thrilling zoo goers with their antics. The five cubs are the first new litter born in Monarto in almost a decade, and the zoo’s head carnivore keeper Michelle Lloyd is just delighted.
“It’s been nine years since we last had a Cheetah litter at Monarto and, amazingly, Nakula was one of the cubs born in the last litter all those years ago. It’s a lot of fun to watch the cubs running around on exhibit; they’re very energetic and definitely love the space. Nakula has a big job keeping up with them all but she’s doing great. They are so tough to breed in captivity so it’s huge for the region… To see [Nakula] go on and be a breeding female is the icing on the cake.”
In the wild, the cheetah population is declining at an alarming rate. Ravaged by an infectious eye disease and routinely murdered by farmers seeking to protect their livestock, the cheetah population has dwindled to just 12,400 animals spread across 25 African nations. Cheetahs are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of vulnerable species (African subspecies threatened, Asiatic subspecies in critical situation) as well as on the US Endangered Species Act list of threatened species.
Mother Nakula has been quite busy lately. She gave birth to a single cub in June, who was hand raised by the staff to ensure his survival after the zoo’s vet became concerned that her milk would dry up without more cubs to raise. Nakula began another breeding cycle almost immediately, and the zoo was rewarded with five healthy baby cheetahs in October.
Keeper keeper Michelle Lloyd spoke with pride about Nakula’s adventures with motherhood:
“Soon after we removed the single cub Nakula cycled again and mated successful with one of our breeding males. Unlike last time, we definitely knew Nakula was pregnant by her size and behavior. And she actually gave birth after the exact same gestation period as she did with the hand-raised cub – 92 days!”
Now five energetic, rambunctious young cheetahs are running about in the bright Australian summer sunshine, driving their protective mom crazy while delighting visitors to the zoo. Since many of us live thousands of miles from the Monarto Zoo, we thought you would enjoy some videos of Nakula and her five cubs romping about their enclosure. Without further ado, we present Nakula and the kids:
Photo Credit: David Mattner for Monarto Zoo