The National Zoo is mourning the loss of its senior female cheetah, Tumai. She was 13 years old when she passed away last night of a ruptured spleen; the median lifespan of female cheetahs in captivity is 10 years. Since arriving at the Zoo in May 2004, she has been “treasured by staff and visitors alike.” Tumai is best known for giving birth to the National Zoo’s first litter of cheetah cubs in November 2004.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals on Earth. Native to sub-Saharan Africa, they are an endangered species numbering only 7,500 to 10,000 in the wild. The National Zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Station now supports three adult male cheetahs and two sub-adult cheetahs.