Cheetah Cubs! Warning: Total Cute Overload!
By: Beth Stewart
I love my job. Working on a brand like Animal Planet is a dream come true for an animal lover like me. But I also love my weekend gig: volunteering as a Cheetah Interpreter at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. And these two-month-old little fluff balls are the reason why. Tell me they’re not freaking adorable. Who can resist those furry little faces and big brown eyes? Not to mention the purring, the pouncing, the cuddling and the bird-like chirping sounds they make. They are ridiculously, insanely, almost criminally cute. But these two cheetah cubs are so much more than pretty faces.
They represent years of research by the National Zoo and its sister facility, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. At the risk of oversimplifying, here are three things that help explain why these two bundles of adorableness are so important:
1. It’s estimated there are less than 10,000 cheetahs left in the world.
2. Reputable zoos do not remove cheetahs from the wild.
3. Cheetahs are notoriously hard to breed in captivity.
All of that means that zoos must maintain a self-sustaining captive cheetah population. And for years, most zoos didn’t have much luck doing that. Apparently, the world’s fastest land animals don’t have the same ideas about romance as their larger cousins, the lions and tigers, do.
Fortunately, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and SCBI have made great strides in the world of cheetah matchmaking. Since 2004, six litters have been born between the two facilities. Those litters are extremely important to the long-term health of the captive population. And that’s why these two genetically valuable cutie pies are such good news.
Some people wonder why it’s necessary to have cheetahs in zoos at all. I’ve thought about this question a lot. And I believe we humans need to see and smell and hear what it is we are trying so hard to save. Not everyone can go to Africa to experience cheetahs in their natural habitat. Reputable facilities like the National Zoo are the only way most people will ever see the many animals that need our help. Throughout their lifetime these two cubs will inspire thousands of people to care about preserving cheetahs and their habitat. They’re already inspiring a fair amount of oohs and ahhs and they haven’t even made their public debut yet.
For lots more cheetah cub cuteness and to learn about their rocky entrance into the world visit: Two Cheetah Cubs Transferred to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
And if you live near the D.C. area, come see the cubs in person when they make their public debut in the next few weeks.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Beth Stewart.
Beth Stewart is an Associate Creative Director for Animal Planet. She spends most of her spare time volunteering with animals, photographing animals, advocating for animals and generally being wrapped around her two cats’ little paws.