A five-year-old mother cheetah named Echo has given birth to a litter of cubs at Smithsonian’s Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. You can watch live as Echo bonds with her four cubs on Smithsonian’s Cheetah Cub Cam.
This livestream is the same footage animal care staff are watching from afar to give Echo time and space to bond and care for her newborn babies. Staff won't know the cubs' sexes until Echo has bonded with her cubs and staff can get a closer look safely. Echo started having contractions this morning and gave birth to her first cub shortly after 11 a.m. Eastern Time. The cub’s father is a four-year-old male cheetah named Scott. Echo and Scott were paired and bred in the first week on January. This is Echo’s first pregnancy, and one of 14 litters of cheetah cubs born at SCBI since 2007.
“It’s thrilling and humbling to witness something as special as an animal birth,” said National Zoo director Steve Monfort in a statement. “I’m eager to watch the newborn cubs in their early days. During this extremely tumultuous and isolating time, we want the new cheetah cam and all our live animal webcams to provide much needed moments of relief and inspiration from our natural world.”
Echo was raised by her own mother without human intervention, explains Adrienne Crosier, cheetah reproductive biologist at SCBI. That early contact with her own mother gives the staff confidence in Echo’s maternal instincts.
“She was raised by her own mother without human intervention, so there’s a good chance Echo has learned cheetah parenting behaviors from the best teacher—her mother,” says Crosier in a statement.
These cubs are special, as each new individual born gives researchers a chance to learn about this species. SCBI is part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition, a group of ten cheetah breeding centers in the United States working to maintain a “sustainable North American cheetah population under human care,” according to a Zoo statement.