19 ‘playful’ cheetah cubs born at Virginia zoo

RICHMOND, Va. — It’s been a busy season for baby cheetah cubs at the Metro Richmond Zoo.

19 cheetah cubs from 6 different litters have been born at the zoo this year, the greatest number of cubs born in a single year in the zoo’s history.

The cubs were born in March, June, July, and August to cheetah moms Khari, Naya, Vaila, Rey, Zola, and Wiay after a gestation period of about 93 days.

“It’s very exciting. We have cubs at all different ages: the youngest are 2 weeks old up to over 5 months,” Jim Andelin, zoo director, said on Thursday.

The cubs were born at the zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Center, a private specialized area with 19 habitats dedicated solely to the protection of cheetahs. The center is on zoo grounds but not open for the public.

Naya and her 6 cubs (4 males and 2 females) who are almost five month old were recently moved to the cheetah habitat in the zoo for guests to see. 

“They’re so playful, running all over the yard and wrestling,” Andelin said. “There are very few zoos that are able to display baby cheetahs. Most of the time they’re born in conservation centers not open to the public. We were able to take a litter and bring them into the zoo so the public can see the young cubs and watch them grow. It’s very exciting.”

During their first few months of life, the cubs have several vet checkups for weigh-ins, deworming, and essential vaccinations.

The cheetah’s wild population has decreased 93% in the last 120 years, making it Africa’s most endangered big cat. As of today, the cheetah inhabits only 9% of its historic range. Since 2013, 96 cheetahs have been born at the Metro Richmond Zoo.

The Metro Richmond Zoo collaborated with the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) to make recommendations on the breeding. Once the cheetahs can live independently, some will be transferred to other accredited zoos throughout the United States under the direction of the animal management plan. More information at https://www.metrorichmondzoo.com/