Baby Cheetahs Bring Fruitful Year to a Close at the Zoo

Cheetah cubs join the list of new arrivals for 2010

After years of research, two cheetah cubs were born to two separate females at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Smithsonian's National Zoo
Cheetahs that give birth to only one cub, called a singleton, cannot produce enough milk to keep the cub alive. Smithsonian's National Zoo
The birth of these two cubs are especially significant because cheetah births across the country have dwindled over the past five years. Smithsonian's National Zoo
Cheetah cubs in human care have about a 20 percent mortality rate, compared to up to 70 percent in the wild in east Africa. Adrienne Crosier, Smithsonian's National Zoo
The two cheetah cubs were the first to be born at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park facility in Front Royal, Va. Adrienne Crosier, Smithsonian's National Zoo

The National Zoo has had a banner year for babies this year. Beginning with the birth of Andean bear cubs in January, we also saw the birth of strawberry tree frogs, kiwis, clouded leopards, a snake-necked turtle, white naped cranes, red pandas (who tragically died weeks later), veiled chameleons, an acouchi, red billed hornbills, Temminck's tragopans, onagers, ferrets, an anteater, and of course, lion cubs (and we sadly lost one cub earlier this spring.) And that's not including our almost pregnant panda Mei Xiang.

So it is fitting that in the closing month of the year, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute out in Front Royal was graced with more to add to the list: two cheetah cubs. Amari, a 5-year-old cheetah, gave birth to one cub on December 6 and 9-year-old Zazi gave birth to another 10 days later. According to the Zoo, cheetahs that give birth to a litter of one cannot provide enough milk to keep the single cub alive. In an innovative maneuver, the biologists hand-raised Amari's cub until Zazi gave birth, and the litter of two cubs should be able to nurse from her.

The latest arrivals bring the total number of cheetahs under the Zoo's care (split between the Zoo and SCBI) to 13. While these as-of-yet unnamed cubs will stay at SCBI for close observation and care (cheetahs born in human care have a 20 percent mortality rate, as opposed to 70 percent in the wild in east Africa), check out the adorable photos of them below and stay tuned to this space in 2011 for what will hopefully be many more zooborn announcements.

Get the latest on what's happening At the Smithsonian in your inbox.