An extraordinary six cheetah cubs have been welcomed by staff at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
Cheetah supervisor Jennifer Conaghan said generally two to four cubs were the average size of the litter for Cheetah’s.
“Six is pretty extraordinary. This is the largest litter we’ve had at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, with 20 litters produced here to date,” Ms Conaghan said.
The cheetah cubs were born to experienced mother Kyan and father Jana.
“This Kyan’s fourth litter.
“Kyan is showing very positive maternal behaviour. Having so many cubs at one time is her biggest challenge, but she is being a very attentive and patient mother.”
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Cheetah are notoriously challenging to breed. The successful introduction of Kyan and Jana and subsequent pregnancy and birth is a testament to the hard work, dedication and experience of the zoo’s cheetah keeping team.
The cheetah cubs will be reliant on their mother until up to 18 months of age, initially for food but also to learn behavioural and hunting skills. Between the ages of four and twelve months the cubs will start to explore, chase and play with one another.
“Any scratching, climbing and chasing behaviours will be well practiced on mum, which she will graciously tolerate. Cheetah teeth and claws are razor sharp from a young age. At twelve to eighteen months, the cubs will begin to learn and perfect their hunting skills,” said Jennifer.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo has a long history of breeding cheetah, with the program established in the 1980s. The zoo now holds 17 cheetah in total. Female cheetah tend to be solitary, whilst males will live in a coalition, so visitors will often only see them in their natural groupings on exhibit.
Cheetah are currently classified as vulnerable in the wild, with a population trend in decline due to habitat destruction and human wildlife conflict. Every cheetah birth is important and these six new arrivals will become ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.
“The arrival of Kyan’s cubs is extremely exciting, as it means visitors will be able to see a large family group on display in the future.”
“The cheetah cubs still have some growing to do before this happens. Kyan and her cubs will spend the next couple of months behind the scenes before making their debut on exhibit,”
“We’ll keep everyone up to date on their progress in the meantime.”
This time behind the scenes is critical for the cubs to bond with Kyan and develop during this initial period, and for Kyan to feel relaxed and concentrate on the task at hand.