12 Days of ZooLights: Cheetah

12 Days of ZooLights

Jim Jenkins/National Zoo

Haven't made it to the National Zoo this holiday season? Catch up on what you're missing with our 12 Days of ZooLights. From Nov. 23 to Jan. 1, the zoo presents a sparking light display featuring sculptures of many of the zoo’s most popular animals. We're sharing one with you each day.

Today's animal: Cheetah

Habitat: African savannah

In the wild: There are only 8,000-10,000 cheetahs in the wild. About 10,000 years ago the cheetah population experienced a sharp population decline.

At the zoo: The zoo has four cheetahs living at the Cheetah Conservation Station. Carmelita and Justin are the youngest, making a rocky entrance during a dramatic delivery in the spring. Three male cheetahs -- Draco, Zabini and Granger -- and a female cheetah, Tumai, also live at the zoo.

Zoo history: Carmelita and Justin were born in April at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and were hand-raised by zoo keepers. Scientists at the institute study cheetah reproduction.

Bet you didn’t know... Scientists think cheetahs suffer from genetic defects more often than some other species.

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