November 29, 2004
Peper Long (202) 673-0206 or (202) 391-2471
John Gibbons (202) 673-4840 or (781) 820-3404
National Zoo’s First Litter of Cheetahs Born
A litter of four cheetahs was born at the Smithsonian's National Zoo on Tuesday, Nov. 23. The four cubs were born during an 11-hour period, beginning at 2:15 a.m.
This is the first litter of cheetah cubs ever born at the National Zoo during its 115-year history. This is also the first litter for Tumai (TOO-may), the cubs' 4-year-old mother. Tumai came to the National Zoo earlier this year; in August, she bred with National Zoo male cheetah, Amadi (ah-MAH-dee).
Following mating, the gestation period for cheetahs is 90 to 96 days. The sire does not stay with the dam after mating and does not participate in raising the cubs.
No photographs or video of the cubs are available. Zoo veterinarians and animal-care staff will not examine the cubs for several weeks, so as not to disturb Tumai and her litter during this very critical period.
The National Zoo currently has 10 cheetahstwo males, four females, and the four cubs, whose gender has not yet been determined.
Cheetahs are the fastest land animalsreaching speeds upwards of 60 miles per hour. Once found in parts of southern Asia, the Middle East and Africa, these cats now exist only in Africa, with a small population in Iran and Afghanistan. An estimated 12,000 to 15,000 cheetahs survive in the wild, where they typically live eight to 10 years.
Scientists have found that cheetahs suffer from genetic defects due to inbreeding, possibly the result of a population bottleneck that occurred perhaps as long as 12,000 years ago. This lack of genetic diversity results in high cub mortality and a low resistance to disease. The National Zoo participates in the cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP), coordinated by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. SSPs are cooperative breeding and conservation programs designed to maintain genetically viable populations of animals in captivity and to organize zoo- and aquarium-based efforts to preserve the species in nature. The National Zoo has been involved in 25 years of research on cheetahs in the wild and in zoos.
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Note to Editors: Photos of sire Amadi and dam Tumai are available from the Zoo's Office of Public Affairs.