The population of big cats is diminishing worldwide as many cats either must thrive in sanctuaries or in captivity. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute recently welcomed 5 cheetah cubs into the world this Tuesday as they were able to watch their 5 year old cheetah, Rosalie, give birth on camera. Zoo officials stated that Rosalie is a first time mom, with the first cheetah born at the facility, Nick, having sired the litter. The cubs are currently left alone with mom so that they can bond and be cared for without any interference from other officials or from Nick. However, the world can watch the five cheetahs grow up together with the Cheetah Cam, a webcam installed by the SCBI in the enclosure. Cheetah populations have been diminishing worldwide, with many cheetahs suffering issues of their genetics being almost identical. Habitat loss and a lack of prey have also contributed to the trend of cheetahs racing towards extinction. The issue of identical genetics diminished the population of these fast cats greatly as a result; thankfully cheetahs live longer if properly cared for in captivity, living up to 20 years.
The cubs appear to be healthy and have been doing great despite only being in the world for a single day thus far. Rosalie seems to be caring well for her cubs with the confidence of a mother, and the zoo is very happy to see the cubs doing well. "Seeing Rosalie successfully care for this litter—her first—with confidence is very rewarding. Being able to witness the first moments of a cheetah’s life is incredibly special. As webcam viewers watch our cheetah family grow, play and explore their surroundings, we hope the experience brings them joy and helps them feel a deeper connection to this vulnerable species," said Adrienne Crosier, cheetah reproductive biologist at SCBI and head of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Cheetah Species Survival Plan. SCBI had had a rough week this past week concerning their big cats, as three weeks ago the zoo announced that 8 of its lions and tigers had tested positive for COVID-19. 6 lions and 3 tigers had tested positive for the illness, but three weeks later all of the big cats had recovered nicely, eating and behaving normally. One lion’s tests were still coming back positive, but the majority of them started coming back “undetermined” after this was announced. The SCBI stated that it would continue to watch the health of the cats for the next few weeks.
But on the heels of a possible COVID crisis, this is a great step up that proved to be a huge win for the zoo. Classic moments like the welcoming of new big cat cubs into the world prove to be a distraction from the tense moment the zoo had to experience just weeks before, and thankfully not a lot of controversy surrounded how the COVID tests and illness was handled for the big cats. Still, though, it remains to be seen whether or not the cubs will all survive and grow up into healthy cheetahs that will live in comfort alongside the rest of their spotted friends. As the cheetahs are celebrated as welcomed into the world, the questions left unanswered of cheetahs racing to extinction and other big cats possibly facing endangerment continue to plague others’ minds and cynics among us cannot help but roll their eyes. In the meantime, we can only hope these adorable cheetah cubs grow up to be just as strong and powerful as their mom is.