Siri and Jelani, our two hand-raised cheetah cubs, are now 18 and 12 months old respectively, and live together at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. While Siri was being hand-raised, keepers decided to bring in a companion puppy named Iris, a retriever X mastiff the same age as Siri, to become her new playmate. As Siri did not have any siblings, Iris provided her the opportunity to help develop natural behaviours she would normally have developed with brothers or sisters. When Jelani came along six months later, in a similar situation, Iris stepped up again to become a cheetah “sibling”, and did another great job.
Over the last six months keepers gradually introduced the two cheetah cubs together and they have now become best mates. During the initial introductions Jelani, the younger cub, seemed to try and assert her dominance over the older and bigger Siri, however the tables have turned and Siri is definitely now the boss of the two.
Now we often find the pair playing chase or resting together in the shade. Jelani’s favourite game is playing with any sort of toy ball, which Siri doesn’t always have the patience for, but occasionally Jelani ropes Siri into having a play with it together! It has been really special as keepers to watch their relationship develop and watch the two of them play together.
Usually in the wild female cheetah become solitary once they reach sexual maturity, which for females is around 2 years of age. Eventually the two might want their own space, but for now they are thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.
And what about Iris, you might wonder...... Now that she has completed all her hard work helping us keepers raise two cheetah cubs, she has since been adopted by two zoo keepers who worked with her here at the zoo!
By Cheetah Keeper, Jordan Michelmore