A pair of cheetah cub sisters being raised by animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are now 56 days old—and very active. Nursery staff report that the cubs are playing almost constantly and only take short catnaps during the day. They are eating ground meat, with some formula supplement, but animal care staff will finish providing formula by the week’s end.
The two growing cheetahs have also been given more play area. Previously, the cheetah sisters were cared for in the nursery’s large playpen—but now that they are bigger, they have access to their entire nursery room. To prepare the nursery for the cubs, animal care staff had to “kittenproof” the room much the same way that parents would prepare a house for a toddler: electrical sockets were blocked, electrical cords were taken away, and any small spaces or sharp corners were filled or covered with towels and blankets.
Guests visiting the Safari Park can see the cheetahs, currently known as Purple and Yellow, in their nursery at Nairobi Station between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, these cubs will eventually be transferred to the San Diego Zoo to serve as animal ambassadors for their species. To prepare the cubs for this, animal care staff at the Park are working with Zoo staff to crate train the cubs, as crate travel will be the primary way the cheetahs will be transported for their animal ambassador appearances. Staff make the crates a comfortable and rewarding place for the cubs to relax, and they encourage the young cheetahs to retreat to their crates for naps and sleeping.
A recent survey shows that cheetah populations in their historic range are much lower than previously thought. According to a study published in December 2016, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there are only 7,100 cheetahs remaining within the species’ native habitat. The last comprehensive survey of African cheetah populations was conducted in 1975, when it was estimated there were 14,000 cheetahs.
San Diego Zoo Global, which has been breeding cheetahs for more than 40 years, is working to create an assurance population of cheetahs by participating in the national Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC). By building a sustainable cheetah population, San Diego Zoo Global and the other eight members of the Cheetah BCC are working to prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal. The Cheetah BCC was formed in late 2012 as part of the Cheetah Sustainability Program, a partnership between the Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) program.