Our Cheetah cubs were born on 6 June 2018 to mother Kyan and father Jana. Follow the journey of the first couple of weeks of the cubs through the eyes of their keepers.
Day 1: On the night of 5 June, Kyan began to display restless behaviours, by mid-morning on the 6June she began contractions and the first cub is born at 10.10am! We watched as Kyan groomed the cub carefully; the cub moves well and finds a teat shortly after. Over the next few hours we watch remotely via CCTV as four more cubs are born throughout the day. Kyan is very attentive to all five cubs after each birth. It was definitely a pretty good day at the office!
We check back later that night and when we arrive, Kyan has her final cub bringing total to a very impressive six cheetah cubs! The average size litter for cheetah is 2-4 cubs, so Kyan definitely has a full time job ahead of her. All cubs appeared strong and healthy. We continue to observe via video surveillance to monitor the progress and suckling behaviours of the cubs without disturbing them. Kyan displays very strong mothering instincts and as an experienced mother is doing everything just right. Even in the wild, cheetah have high cub mortality rates, so we are being very attentive to the conditions of the den boxes.
Week 1: It’s a long week for us as we continue to monitor Kyan and cubs via CCTV footage. With so many cubs, the cooler winter temperatures, and their small size; it is important to watch for activity levels and feeding intervals to ensure all are thriving. Kyan is attentive and also begins to relax into the motherhood role once again. She repositions herself regularly and the cubs wrestle each other for prime position at the ‘milk bar’. Their little claws and paws innately marks time on mum’s belly, which assist in stimulating milk flow. It will be at least 5-6 weeks until the cubs begin the transition onto solid food. Kyan grooms and toilets each cub which helps stimulate a feeding response, solidifies their bond with each other, and also keeps the den area nice and clean. At the moment we are feeding Kyan twice a day to ensure she gets adequate nutrition to support such a large litter.
Week 2: The cubs’ eyes are slowly opening and becoming more focused. They are becoming more curious and more active around the den, and are using mum as a proverbial bean bag and climb all over her. It can be difficult at times to spot all six cubs as they are often wriggling around in a big ball on top of one another.
The cubs are also starting to venture further out towards the entrance of the den, giving them a glimpse into their new sunlit world and possible areas to investigate. Kyan is always very watchful whilst they do this, and they haven’t yet ventured too far before returning to the safety of the inner part of the den box.
Week 3: While Kyan is busy eating her morning breakfast, we make their first visual check of the cubs in the den. This is very brief and involves opening the den box for 1-2 minutes. We will continue to do this daily so the cubs can become used to our presence. Kyan’s maternal instincts also mean she is ever vigilant of the surrounding area and she is checking for any perceived danger, just as cheetah mum’s do in the wild. Our priority is to ensure Kyan remains relaxed and comfortable and in the cubbing yard.
By Cheetah Supervisor Jen Conaghan