#CheetahCubdate: Farewell to Echo and Her Feisty Cubs!

Plus, catch up with some cool cats previously featured on the Cheetah Cub Cam

This update was written by carnivore biologist Adrienne Crosier.

As we prepare for a new breeding season, we are ready to begin moving our cheetah family to a new yard at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute's Front Royal, Virginia, campus.

Which means it’s time to say farewell to Echo and her cubs! 

Now that the weather is warmer, the seven-month-old cubs are making the most of their outdoor playtime by zooming around, wrestling, chewing their toys and enrichment items, and stealing bones from each other. And of course, second-time mom Echo is doing a wonderful job patiently raising all five of her feisty cubs. She has become very laid back as the cubs have grown.

Developmentally, the cubs are right on track for a healthy lifestyle. In fact, we recently started bowl training. As opposed to the whole family eating from the same big bowl, the animal care staff and I are training each cub to eat their meals individually at their own station areas. This feeding method allows us to get a close look at each cub while they eat, affording us the opportunity to give them a quick health check without disrupting their routines too much. Plus, it allows us to start individual training programs with each cub. Echo isn’t a fan of bowl training—she still prefers to eat with her cubs as a family. This will make our work a little more challenging. But it's because she loves her cubs so much and doesn't want to be away from them.

Our three male cubs do not have names yet, but we recently gave names to the two females: Ojore (meaning warrior), and Freya (meaning strong).

I want to mention that one of our feisty cubs, Freya, has a back injury that we’re keeping a close eye on. Viewers of the Cheetah Cub Cam may have noticed that she walks with a bit of a limp. Veterinary and animal care staff are monitoring her very closely and are actively treating her for discomfort and mobility improvement. The good news is that Freya continues to eat normally, play and spend quality time with her family. We have additional examinations scheduled to track the injury and figure out the best possible options for her treatment. 

In addition to keeping an eye on Freya, our animal care staff is managing our cheetahs through their annual breeding season. A few of our adults have paired already; over the next few weeks, we will confirm any potential pregnancies via ultrasound. We’re hopeful that we’ll welcome another litter of cubs (or two) by June or July. And if everything goes well, they might be featured on the next season of our Cheetah Cub Cam.

And speaking of more cheetahs, I want to give a quick update on a few of our previously featured cubs that fans of cam will hopefully be familiar with.

One large male cheetah rests in a field of grass. A slatted fence is behind him.

Kushoma, who was one of Rosalie's five cubs featured on the Cheetah Cub Cam in 2021, still lives with us. He's the biggest cheetah on our campus!

Rosalie’s five cubs, featured in 2021, are doing great. The three males from the litter, Kushoma, 3D and Kuba, are living together in their own coalition. Kushoma is doing especially well—he’s huge! Weighing in at 115 pounds (or about 53 kilograms), he is by far the biggest cheetah on our campus.   These three brothers have an extremely close bond, and they do not like to be separated from each other at all, even for feeding!   They will stay together in their coalition for life, just like in the wild. 

Rosalie’s two daughters, Kuki and Zura, are also doing well and are still living together. Kuki may be leaving us this fall to go to another breeding center to eventually start her own family.  For now, the plan is for Zura to stay with us for a while longer. Female cheetahs go through puberty a bit later than males.   

Two juvenile male cheetahs investigating a rubber red egg toy in a grassy field. The male on the left is batting the egg with his paw.

Ziad and Enzi were featured on the Cheetah Cub Cam in 2022 with their mom, Amani.

Amani’s two cubs, Ziad and Enzi, featured in 2022, are healthy and growing into adulthood. We recently moved them into their own habitat area to give them the space they need to gain some independence from their mother. 

Action shot of a juvenile male cheetah chasing a bouncing red egg toy.

Ziad chases a rubber egg toy in the yard he shares with Enzi.

At 18 months old, the two males are learning what it means to live in their own coalition, just as they would in the wild. Coalitions of male cheetahs usually stick together for their entire lives, and we’re expecting Ziad and Enzi to do the same.

As always, thank you for sticking around and watching this litter of cubs grow and play together. Giving folks like you the opportunity to learn about cheetah behavior via the Cheetah Cub Cam is such a fun and rewarding part of our conservation work. We hope you stay tuned for what comes next!

Missing the Cheetah Cub Cam? We invite you to check out our other live streaming animal cams... and follow the Zoo on social media for future updates!