Siri is a nine week old female Cheetah cub, currently being hand-raised by Zoo Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
Siri (meaning secret in Swahili) was the only cub born to experienced mother Halla. For the first six weeks of her life keepers cared for Siri around the clock, developing a strong bond with the cub.
At eight weeks of age keepers and vets decided to introduce a companion puppy to help Siri develop her animal instincts and learn natural social interaction. Siri and the 7-week-old retriever cross mastiff puppy named Iris are being gradually introduced by keepers, with play sessions occurring up to 2 – 3 times day. The puppy will be raised with Siri and be her companion during her early development.
Cheetahs are usually born in litters of three to five cubs. When a singleton is born, the mother often rejects the cub as the chance of a single cub surviving in the wild is minimal. Zoo Keeper Linda Matthews: “We were on alert when we knew there was only one cub, and after 24hrs based on what we were seeing, we intervened to give Siri the best chance of survival. Cheetahs are classified as vulnerable in the wild, and every birth is important. Although hand-raising can be challenging, as a strong female cub Siri may one day have a very important role to play for her species as part of the regional breeding program.”
So far the introduction sessions have been extremely playful with Iris the puppy initiating the interaction. Siri is weary of her Iris, however Keeper Linda says “With every play session they seem to be improving their relationship. Siri can be a bit of a drama queen, she makes loud noises and swipes at Iris, but she keeps coming back for more play time.”
Cheetahs are notoriously difficult to breed, so every birth is extremely valuable to the global population given the low numbers in the wild. Taronga Western Plains Zoo was the first in Australia to successfully breed Cheetah, with litters in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2013. This success is a testament to the animal husbandry expertise and experience of staff at the Zoo.
Cheetah once ranged from Bengal to Capetown but the estimated 10,000 remaining, down from 100,000 a century ago, are now found mostly in Africa. You can support Taronga's conservation work and help us secure a shared future for wildlife and people by adopting an animal. Adopt an animal today!