Biologists at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo began breeding cheetahs back in 2010. In the seven years since the program’s inception, it has given birth to a total of 46 cubs. That’s an average of 6.57 cheetah cubs a year -- a statistic which renders the Smithsonian’s recent news even more incredible.
At the end of March, two female cheetahs at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia brought 12 new cubs into the world, 10 of which are reportedly healthy.
“The average litter size is three, so this time we’ve got an incredible pile of cubs,” said cheetah biologist Adrienne Crosier. “In just one week, we increased the number of cheetahs at SCBI by 50 percent.
Five of the cubs were born to three-year-old female, Happy, and a six-year-old male, named Nick, who has the distinction of being the first healthy cheetah born to the Smithsonian’s breeding program.
The remaining seven cubs were born to seven-year-old female, Miti, and ten-year-old male, Alberto, both of whom will now be removed from the breeding rotation since their genetic material is reportedly well-represented among the captive cheetah population.
Sadly, two of Miti and Alberto’s cubs were born significantly smaller and less active than their siblings. They died shortly afterward, an occurrence which the Smithsonian says is relatively common among litters of this size.
In the end, though, this spring’s baby boom at the Smithsonian gave birth to two litters, each made up of two healthy male and three healthy female cheetahs. Now, they’re no doubt the coolest cats in town.