Cheetah Cub Cam FAQs

This year, the Cheetah Cub Cam is hosting cheetah mom Echo and her five cubs, born on Sept. 13, 2023. Streaming live from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, get the answers to your cheetah questions below: 

Cheetahs are a vulnerable species. Due to human conflict and poaching, habitat and prey-base loss, there are only an estimated 7,000 to 7,500 cheetahs left in the wild. With less than 10,000 cheetahs living on Earth today, their population is under threat. 

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition—a group of 10 cheetah breeding centers across the United States that aim to create and maintain a sustainable North American cheetah population under human care.  

These cheetah cubs you see on camera are part of an extensive breeding program at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. These cubs are a significant addition to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Cheetahs, as each individual contributes to this program. 

New litters of cheetah cubs have been born nearly every year at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute since 2010. It is our hope that seeing newborn cubs brings Cheetah Cub Cam viewers joy and helps them feel a deeper connection to this vulnerable species. 

Echo is an 8-year-old cheetah living at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. She was born at White Oak Conservation Center in Florida in 2014. Echo is a second time Mom; her first litter of four cubs was born at SCBI in Front Royal in 2020. From her first litter, males Jabari, Hasani and Erindi the three males have moved on to Oklahoma City Zoo, and the female Amabala lives near her mother at SCBI. Echo’s new litter is the 18th litter of cheetah cubs born at SCBI since the breeding program began. 

Often when an animal is about to give birth, keepers set up a camera to make sure they can monitor the health and well-being of the mother and her offspring. The webcam feed you’re watching is one that keepers monitor 24/7. It was set up long before Echo was pregnant and will remain in place for as long as keepers need to make sure she is doing well.

Echo’s litter of cubs has two potential sires!  

The father could either be Asante, who was born at SCBI in 2015 (and was also a sire of Ziad and Enzi, who were born to mom Amani in 2022) or Flash. Flash was born in April 2017 at Toronto Zoo in Canada and came to SCBI with his brothers in 2019. It’s common for female cheetahs in the wild to produce a litter from two different sires: the keeper team at SCBI will eventually perform genetic testing on the cubs to determine their exact lineage.  

In fact, it’s possible that both Asante and Flash fathered different cubs in the same litter! 

Cheetahs are usually pregnant for about 90 days, or three months. Echo’s breeding took place between June 7-9. Birth windows for cheetahs last for about 10 days. 

Interaction between a mother cheetah and her cubs helps them bond. Cheetah mothers lick their cubs to clean and groom them. The cheetah mother has to do this right after birth and will continue to groom them regularly as they grow. Echo also used grooming to stimulate her cubs to urinate and defecate when they were first born. You may see Echo nursing (feeding) her cubs, and as they get older, mother and cubs will play together. 

Cheetah cubs chirp when they are looking for their mom, or when they are hungry or cold. You may also hear the cubs and Echo purring.

Sometimes, animal moms can have trouble caring for their young or do not make enough milk to feed them. If that’s the case, keepers will step in and hand-rear the cubs.

That remains to be seen. These cheetah cubs are part of an extensive breeding program at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Animal keepers and biologists do not plan for the cubs to either breed or go on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. until they are at least two years old. So, the cubs will be in Front Royal until they are two… but after that, who knows!

Not counting the new cubs, 25 cheetahs live on the 9-acre breeding facility and the about 2-acre satellite Cheetah Ridge facility in Front Royal, Virginia. They are purposefully nestled away in a quiet area, because cheetahs breed more successfully in quiet environments. Seventeen litters totaling 70 cubs have been born at SCBI since 2010; Echo’s litter is the 18th born at SCBI. 

Currently, two female cheetahs live at the Africa Trail at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Their names are Sara and Carmelita.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s legacy of conservation work extends beyond the public Zoo in Washington, D.C., to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Scientists at SCBI study and breed more than 20 species, including some that were once extinct in the wild, such as black-footed ferrets and scimitar-horned oryx.

Animals thrive in specialized barns and building complexes spread over more than 1,000 acres. The sprawling environment allows for unique studies that contribute to the survival of threatened, difficult-to-breed species with distinct needs, especially those requiring large areas, natural group sizes and minimal public disturbance.

The cheetahs may have animal visitors in their den overnight! Because SCBI is located in the Shenandoah mountains, native wildlife often makes its way onto the rural property. The risk posed to the cheetah cubs is minimal, especially since they have mom Echo around to protect them. The visiting opossums also provide a valuable service by eating any ticks they find in the cheetah yards. Occasionally, keepers do catch and remove opossums, but more often than not, these visitors choose to leave on their own.

Keepers gave each cheetah an ultrasound! As part of their enrichment and training, keepers worked with cheetahs at SCBI to voluntarily participate in their veterinary care.