Two large litters of cheetah cubs were born in just one week at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia, the Smithsonian Institute said.
Three-year-old Happy gave birth to five healthy cubs on March 23. Seven-year-old Miti gave birth to seven cubs on March 28 (two of the cubs, visibly smaller and less active, later died).
Both mothers are doing well and attending to the 10 surviving healthy cubs. Each litter includes two male and three female cubs, the SCBI said.
“The average litter size is three, so this time we’ve got an incredible pile of cubs,” said Adrienne Crosier, SCBI cheetah biologist and manager of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP), which matches cheetahs across the population for breeding.
Both Miti and Happy bred in December and were matched with male cats that fit their temperaments and would help ensure genetic diversity within the population.
The two litters are also significant because they mark the second generation of cheetahs born at SCBI, extending the branches of the breeding facility’s cheetah family tree and making grandparents of two older cheetahs that were recently retired together, Amani and Barafu.
It will likely be the last litters for both Alberto and Miti.
“One of our big goals across the population right now is to breed more new individual animals, mixing and matching more pairs to diversify the genetics as much as possible,” Crosier said. “The birth of these two litters at SCBI is really symbolic of the recent success story playing out across the country as the result of coordinated efforts and terrific communication between cheetah breeding centers.”
SCBI plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. Its scientists tackle some of the most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.