Five newborn cheetah cubs are are being cared for around the clock after a rare C-section was performed on a captive cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
The cubs – three males and two females – were born March 8 after zookeepers and veterinarians spotted some “abnormal” issues with Willow, their 5-year-old mother. While the big cat was anaesthetized for an examination, officials decided to deliver the cubs.
“The cubs were born under difficult circumstances,” Dr. Mark Campbell, the zoo’s director of animal health, wrote in a blog updating their condition. “For puppies and kittens the vast majority of their passive immunity comes from their mom’s milk especially the colostrum. Their immune systems are not developed very well at all at this time so they are unable to actively ward off infections. We are doing all we can to keep them healthy and strong, but it will be a challenge for these cubs moving forward.”
This is only the third C-section Dr. Campbell has been involved in during his 25 year career at the zoo, and the first one with a cheetah. Willow is now recovering.
The delivery took place at zoo’s regional cheetah breeding facility in Clermont County. The cubs were moved to the zoo’s nursery, where they’ll stay for another two to three months. They are being bottle fed every three hours, and so far, putting on weight.
It’s a relief for zookeepers since biologists look to the first week and month of life as key benchmarks for survival.
Cheetahs are endangered, perhaps numbering no more than 12,000 left. The Cincinnati Zoo, which has been called “the cheetah capital of the world,” is a main accredited breeding facility dedicated to prevent extinction of the species.
There have been 54 cheetah cubs born at the facility since 2002.
Photos Cincinnati Zoo/YouTube