This International Cheetah Day, we are excited to look toward the future for both Echo’s nearly 8-month-old cubs and this vulnerable species.
In late October, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) held their annual meeting for the cheetah Species Survival Plan, or SSP, in which cheetahs across AZA zoos are managed as a single population. The meeting was a big milestone for Echo’s cubs, who are now officially part of the North American cheetah population. That means their genes have been incorporated into the studbook — a full record of the relationships between cheetahs in AZA zoos.
The studbook helps scientists decide which cheetahs should breed to increase genetic diversity, which is key to a healthy population. As the cheetah SSP coordinator, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s own biologist Adrienne Crosier works closely with the studbook keeper to determine which cheetahs would be good matches for the upcoming year.
When a new litter of cheetahs is added to the studbook, the value of different breeding pairs can change. Cheetahs Echo and Scotty are both first-time parents, so their cubs will likely hold a valuable place in the genetics of our cheetah population. While the cubs are too young to breed this season, it’s important that we include them in our plans for the future.
For now, Jabari, Hasani, Erindi and Amabala are all enjoying new and different lookout spots around their yard! We recently introduced them to a hammock bed that is made with an interwoven fire hose. The beds give the cheetahs some height, so they can see out a bit farther. They also provide a comfortable place to lay in the sun, as well as some shade underneath on hot days.
The cubs’ training continues. They are still learning to shift and recognize the word “out” as a cue to leave the building where their scale is located, as mentioned in our last update. We are also still working with them to get their flea and tick preventatives, and to step onto their scales regularly to be weighed.
During their last weigh-in, Jabari weighed 56 pounds, Hasani and Erindi tipped the scales at 52 and 51 pounds, respectively, and Amabala weighed in at 49 pounds.Be sure to catch the cubs on the Cheetah Cub Cam as the weather gets colder! Love the cheetah cubs? Read previous updates here.