Newborn Cheetah Cubs Relocate to National Zoo

After a dramatic birth, the three-week-old cubs are being raised by hand.

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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
A pair of three-week-old cheetahs got new digs at the National Zoo last week after a rocky start in life. They'll have round-the-clock care to help take care of their teeny adorableness.
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Their mom, five-year-old Ally, gave birth to her first cub April 23 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia. But instead of nursing and cleaning the baby, Ally abandoned him. Keepers say that's fairly common for first-time cheetah moms under human care.
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Eventually, a vet anesthetized Ally to see if there were more cubs -- and there were. Three more cubs were delivered via C-section, which is rarely done on cheetahs. Cubs don't often survive the procedure, and a team worked for three hours trying to resuscitate the babies. One of the three, a female, survived.
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
“Given how rare this procedure is, we thought it’d be unlikely for any of the cubs to survive,” said Adrienne Crosier, cheetah biologist at the institute. “But that little female is a fighter. Once we got her breathing, she just kept going. It was a very intense, stressful experience, but among the most inspiring of my career.”
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Both cubs and their mother were in intensive care for three days after the birth; the cub who'd been both naturally and then abandoned had hypothermia. The cubs’ father, Caprivi, was brought in to donate plasma to the cubs to boost their immune systems.
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Three weeks later, the cubs appear to be healthy (and resemble squishy stuffed toys).
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Keepers are hand-raising both cubs, which requires bottle feeding every few hours.
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Says the zoo: "Having two hand-raised cubs presented a unique opportunity to bring the animals to the Zoo, according to Tony Barthel, curator of the Zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Station, where the new cubs will live."
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
“The cubs will continue to need care and we’re not out of the woods yet," Barthel said. "The goal is to ensure that the cheetahs thrive and become ambassadors for their species.”
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Cheetah mom Ally will also be transferred to the zoo.
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Says the zoo: "The mortality rate for cheetah cubs in human care born under normal circumstances is 20 percent during the first six months, compared to a mortality rate of up to 70 percent in the wild population in east Africa."
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
In addition to four litters born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, two litters of cheetahs have been born at the zoo’s D.C. facility since 2004.
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