There are only between 7,500 and 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild

By Ashley Boucher
April 08, 2020 05:03 PM
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Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute has the perfect escape for animal lovers staying at home during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A litter of baby cheetahs was born on Wednesday, and the SCBI livestreamed the entire birth for viewers at home to “provide much needed moments of relief and inspiration from our natural world,” said Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

Cheetah mom Echo, 5, began having contractions on Wednesday morning, giving birth to the first cub shortly after 11 a.m. A total of four cubs were born. Echo was bred with 4-year-old male cheetah Scott in early January.

“It’s thrilling and humbling to witness something as special as an animal birth,” Monfort said, adding that he is “eager” to watch the newborn animals in their early days from the webcam.

The animal care staff will not enter Echo’s den for several days, in order to give her time to bond with her little ones.

Echo and her four cubs
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Adrienne Crosier, cheetah reproductive biologist at SCBI and head of the Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP), said that they’re hoping Echo and her cubs can mimic life in the wild as much as possible.

“This was Echo’s first pregnancy, but we’re confident in her maternal instincts and abilities,” Crosier said. “She was raised by her own mother without human intervention, so there’s a good chance Echo has learned cheetah parenting behaviors from the best teacher — her mother.”

Cheetahs are considered a vulnerable population, and the four cubs born on Wednesday are part of a program to build a sustainable population of the cats in North America under human care called the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition.

Cheetahs are native to sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority of their populations in eastern and southern African parks. But human threats like poaching and habitat loss have contributed to their dwindling population; there are only an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild, according to the SCBI.

Wildlife enthusiasts can watch Echo and the four new babies on the SCBI’s Cheetah Cam.