#CheetahCubdate: New Cubs, New Den

This update was written by carnivore biologist Adrienne Crosier.

As a species, cheetahs tend to be shy, introverted and a little skittish. And as loyal Cheetah Cub Cam viewers are probably aware, mother cheetahs sometimes move their cubs to a new location if they feel like that’s what they need to do. It’s all part of being a responsible cheetah mom.  

We’re pleased to report that Echo and her five cubs are doing great… in an off-cam den. Last week, Echo moved her kits to a new den space in her habitat area, where they’ve been living since Sept. 29.  

Fortunately, the 3-week-old cubs are thriving. Each of them—three males and two females—are active and playful, and they appear comfortable and healthy. And, they’re really mobile for their age! Echo is doing an excellent job. We’re hopeful they’ll be back in the webcam den soon.  

Five tiny cheetah cubs pile up in a corner of their den. Yellow straw covers the den floor.
Echo's five cubs, pictured here at 2 weeks old, are now living in a camera-less den. Cheetah mothers have a tendency to move their cubs around and switch between dens. So, stay tuned to the webcams, as Echo could move the cubs back any time.
We’re disappointed viewers can’t see them on camera right now, but it’s the best way to care for the cheetahs. The lack of video makes our own jobs a bit more challenging as animal care staff, since the cheetah yards at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, are not equipped with web cameras. We cannot (and would not) move the cameras, as placing them is technically difficult and could be disruptive to Echo and the cubs. So for now, we’ll continue to do our daily monitoring and check-ins off-camera. 

There’s one more interesting thing I want to mention about this year’s cheetah cub litter: there are two potential sires!  

Before she became pregnant, Echo bred with two male cheetahs. The father could either be Asante or Flash. Asante was born at SCBI in 2015 (and was also a sire of Ziad and Enzi, who were born to mom Amani in 2022.) 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, and that may very well be the case here. 

Four cheetah cubs poke their little heads out of a patch of tall grass. The fifth is nearby, off-camera.
Four of Echo's five cubs poke their heads out of some tall grass. The cubs are chirping and growling, but are mostly still learning how to vocalize!

During the cubs’ first upcoming health exam, samples will be collected from each individual so scientists at our Center for Conservation Genomics can perform testing and help us determine who the sire is of each.  Blood samples from Asante, Flash and Echo have already been collected and stored in our freezer until the analysis.   Determining parentage is critical information for our studbook records and population management.  By the end of the year, we’ll have figured out who fathered each of the five cubs. Until then, stay tuned! 

Check back later on the Cheetah Cub Cam to see if our cheetah family will make an appearance, and catch up on previous #CheetahCubdates here