First-time cheetah mother Amani gave birth to two cubs Monday after she became pregnant this summer
The cheetah population of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) has grown by two.
On Monday, the NZCBI’s Front Royal campus in Virginia welcomed a pair of newborn baby cubs when first-time cheetah mother, 4-year-old female Amani, gave birth at night, according to a press release issued Thursday.
The litter is the first fathered by Asante, a 7-year-old male cheetah. The NZCBI added in its release that the cubs “appear to be strong, active, vocalizing and nursing well” in their first days of life.
The zoo has not yet determined the sexes of the cheetah cubs as its cheetah keepers are giving Amani space “to bond with and care for her cubs without interference,” the zoo said in a statement. Once the mother cheetah appears comfortable leaving her cubs alone for an extended period, keepers will perform a health check to learn more about the baby animals.
“Seeing Amani successfully care for this litter — her first — with confidence is very rewarding,” Adrienne Crosier, a cheetah biologist at the NZCBI, said in a statement. “Being able to watch our cheetah family grow, play, and explore their surroundings is incredibly special.”
Those interested in seeing Amani and the cubs in real-time can view the NZCBI’s cheetah cub camera live stream, which shows the animals in their den.
“We hope this experience brings Cheetah Cub Cam viewers joy and helps them feel a deeper connection to this vulnerable species,” Crosier added.
Crosier also heads the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP), which “determine[s] which animals to breed by considering their genetic makeup, health, and temperament, among other factors,” according to the statement.
The SSP paired Amani and Asante this summer, and the animals bred naturally on July 2 and 3, according to the NZCBI’s release. Veterinarians confirmed Amani’s pregnancy on Aug. 8 after keepers trained her to participate in ultrasounds voluntarily. The zoo said the two cheetah cubs are a “significant addition to the Cheetah SSP.”
Only about 7,000 – 7,500 cheetahs remain in the wild in sub-Saharan Africa due to conflicts caused by humans that lead to habitat and prey loss, as well as poaching, according to the NZCBI.
The zoo has seen 17 litters of cheetah cubs born at its campus in Front Royal, Virginia, since 2007.