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Catching Up with the Cheetah Cubs

In May, the cheetah cubs born April 8 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute experienced many exciting “firsts”—from passing their veterinary exam, to receiving their names, to taking a taste of their mother Echo’s diet. As we take a look back at their progress over the past month, we’re counting down the top 10 moments from May that left us in awe (and “aww”) of our cheetah family.

Follow along on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #CheetahCubdates. 

10. Echo Calls Her Cubs

Mother knows best. While it is impossible to know exactly what female cheetah Echo is “saying” to her cubs in this video, it is clear that they are obedient—staying put or venturing out whenever she “directs” them to do so.

9. Cheetah Cub Weigh-In

Cub in a tub! When the cubs turned 5 weeks old, they tipped the scales at 2.5 kilograms, or just over 5 pounds.

Cheetah Cubs at SCBI hiding in the grass

8. The Grass is Always Greener

What does the world outside the cheetah cubs’ den look like? The grass is greener … and very tall! Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute keepers don’t mow a birthing yard until mom reliably brings the cubs into an adjacent yard, so as not to disturb the family.

One way keepers monitor their progress is by looking for the “flat” paths and spots that the cubs play and hide in when they are not in the den.

7. First Veterinary Exam

On May 20, our cheetah cubs received a clean bill of health from the veterinary team! During the exam, vets checked the cubs’ mouths and eyes, listened to their hearts and lungs, felt their bellies and administered vaccines. Shortly thereafter, they were reunited with mom Echo.

Cheetah cubs hiding in wet grass.

6. Can You Spot the Cubs?

As the weather warms, Echo and her cubs are spending more time outside—even in the rain! When mom is nearby, the cubs will romp and play. But, when keepers bring Echo into the feeding stall to check on the cubs, they stay well hidden under the “umbrella” of tall grasses.

Cheetah cubs on a mound overlooking their yard.

5. The View From Above

From high up on a mound in the cheetahs’ yard, Echo and her cubs survey their surroundings. After a rainy weekend at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the quick-drying mound was the perfect spot for the family to relax in the morning before the afternoon heat set in.

Cheetah cubs Hasani, Amabla, Erindi and Jabari at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

4. Receiving Their Names

The cubs officially have names, thanks to YOU! From May 22 through 27, you’ve cast 30,535 votes. The results are in. Clockwise from top-left, meet Hasani, Amabala, Erindi and Jabarii!

The following day, keepers bestowed names upon the cubs. To help keepers identify the cubs, they shaved a small patch of fur on their bodies. Female cub “Right Hip” received the name Amabala, which is Zulu for “spots.” Her brother “Left Hip” was named Jabari, which means “fearless” or “brave one” in Swahili. Male “Left Shoulder” also received a Swahili name—Hasani—which means “handsome.” Last but not least, their brother “Base-of-Tail” received the name Erindi, which is a protected reserve in Namibia, Africa, where many cheetahs are re-released. 

Cheetah Cubs and mom Echo at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute at 2 months old.

3. Running Through the Den

On May 29, cheetah keepers heard quite a bit of rustling and chirping in the grass. They caught glimpses of the cubs playing and pouncing on each other, and their very patient mom, Echo!

If you’re a regular Cheetah Cub Cam viewer, you know that the back door of the den is open. This is to encourage the cubs to play in, around and behind the den. Keepers say the cubs seem to have fun running though!

2. Echo Sets an Example

Our cheetah cubs are becoming more brave when it comes to exploring their yard. They are also getting the hang of moving quickly through the tall grass. To encourage the cubs to eat meat, keepers are offering Echo her daily diet at the fence.

As part of SCBI’s positive reinforcement training program, the adult cheetahs accept meatballs from a soon while keepers get a good look at their overall body condition. As keepers were feeding Echo, the cubs were curious and came over to keep an eye on mom and check out what was happening. They mostly stayed safely behind and on top of her while she enjoyed her meal.

1. The Cubs Eat Meat

Our cheetah cubs tried meat for the first time May 27! Although they were initially a bit shy about approaching the fence, mom called to them with a “stutter” vocalization to let them know it was safe to come over. They quickly discovered the meat provided via spoon! They just took a small taste this time, but it won’t be long before they are sharing Echo’s daily meal.

This story was featured in the June 2020 issue of National Zoo News. Love the cheetah cubs? Check them out on the Cheetah Cub Cam!