Our King Cheetah Halla’s three cubs are just over three months old now, and have had their 10 week-old health check and vaccinations, just like your pet kitten does. However, these babies are already about the size of an adult domestic cat, and all weighed in at around 4kgs each. Most exciting was confirming the sexes – we are proud to announce we have two boys and a girl.
Halla was understandably concerned but calm while briefly separated from her cubs. In fact she has proven to be a fantastic first-time mother, generally calm and taking it all in her stride, even when the cubs started emerging from the den, exploring and learning how to clamber up the logs in their yards. She uses a purring vocalisation, known as a stutter, to communicate with the cubs and guide them whether to stay quiet and hidden or approach things with her. Recently, they have been accompanying her to the feed chute, allowing closer observations of them as they got more curious about the strange stuff mum was eating... they’re now often just as keen for their twice daily feed time as mum, but sometimes are still wary of keepers, so mum will carry food down to their hiding spot.
Keepers are starting to see slightly different characteristics between the cubs, to tell them apart by both appearance and their responses to things – though as they grow and develop things may change. Next on the cards are their 14 week vaccinations, and with a clean bill of health and a little more time and confidence, we will work on moving the family through our extensive off-display cheetah yards until they are ready to go out onto the main exhibit – be sure that we will keep you posted when the time comes!
Longer term, cubs stay with mum for the best part of two years in the wild – after which , as all female cheetahs do, our female cub will live a solitary life (until she breeds). Meanwhile male cheetah remain together in a ‘coalition’, so it is great to have brothers that we hope will stay together well into adulthood, just as they would naturally. Whether they will all stay here at Taronga Western Plains Zoo will depend on breeding recommendations. But despite none of these cubs having the King Cheetah coat pattern like their mother, they may carry on the recessive gene and it will be exciting to follow their progress as they enter the breeding program.
Cheetah Keeper, Katie Boyer