Giving birth to multiple babies in one day sounds like it would be a tough delivery. But cheetah mom Rosalie made her Oct. 12 delivery of five cubs appear natural.
While she lay in her den, calmly licking herself, 6-year-old Rosalie delivered the quintet one at a time between 5:20 a.m. and 11:17 a.m. The first-time mother cleaned each cub as it emerged, and all the newborns found their way to her side to nurse.
The cub quintet was born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, on Oct. 12. The cubs are all doing well but zoo staff hasn’t disturbed Rosalie yet to determine each baby’s sex. They’ll wait until she is all right with leaving the cubs alone for a bit to examine them, said SCBI.
“The cubs appear to be strong, active, vocal and eating well,” according to an SCBI press release.
The cub’s dad is 10-year-old cheetah Nick, who was the first cheetah to be born at the conservation institute. He was paired to breed with Rosalie back in July based on each cheetah’s genetic makeup, temperament and health.
SCBI is part of a group of 10 U.S. breeding centers called the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition which has the goal of building up a “sustainable North American cheetah population under human care.” They are part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and related facilities to maximize genetic diversity and stabilize the demographic distribution of certain species.
Including Rosalie’s cubs, SCBI has seen the birth of 16 litters of cheetah cubs since 2007. There are now 26 cheetahs living at the 9-acre main breeding facility and 2-acre satellite location in Virginia.
Cheetah females average between one and two cubs to five or six cubs in a litter though there have been occasional litters of eight cubs, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Cubs weigh about 8.5-15 ounces at birth and are born blind. They start following their mom out of the den around six weeks old.
Here’s a video of the births posted by the National Zoo:
“Seeing Rosalie successfully care for this litter — her first — with confidence is very rewarding,” said Adrienne Crosier, cheetah reproductive biologist at SCBI and head of the AZA’s Cheetah SSP. “Being able to witness the first moments of a cheetah’s life is incredibly special. As webcam viewers watch our cheetah family grow, play and explore their surroundings, we hope the experience brings them joy and helps them feel a deeper connection to this vulnerable species.”