Cheetah Conservation Center

Racing to save the fastest land animal on the planet

Cheetah population in fast decline – Illustration provided by Tess Sheehey

HISTORY

The cheetah is Africa’s most endangered cat. In 1900, the cheetah population was around 100,000 individuals. However, due to habitat loss, human conflict, and illegal animal trade, the cheetah’s current wild population is in drastic decline. It is estimated there are around 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild. As of today, the cheetah inhabits only 23% of its historic African range. Cheetahs in the wild have an extremely high mortality rate. 90% of cubs die within the first three months of life. 50% of these deaths are attributed to predation and the other 40% fall victim to a lack of genetic diversity.

AT THE ZOO

Breeding cheetahs in captivity is very challenging. Only a small portion of the captive population is breeding. For instance, in 2013, only 8 liters of cheetahs were born in the United States.

The Metro Richmond Zoo was up for the challenge. In 2011, the Zoo purchased 52 acres of land adjacent to the current zoo property. We launched massive efforts in support of cheetah conservation. Construction began on the Cheetah Conservation Center (CCC), a private specialized facility dedicated solely to the conservation of cheetahs. The CCC originally contained 10 enclosures for cheetahs. Construction on the CCC was completed in 2012, and seven female cheetahs arrived at the Zoo to join our two male cheetahs. In 2012, our cheetah population was 9. Four years later, our cheetah population would grow to be 35.

After a three month gestation, on October 6, 2013, Lana gave birth to five cubs. This was the first litter of cheetah cubs for the MRZ. As of 2020, we have had 65 cubs born at the CCC from 14 different litters. These births have made significant additions to the cheetah population. Some of the adult cheetahs at the zoo are unrelated to the other cheetahs in North America, so the genetic value of cubs for future breeding is extremely high. The Metro Richmond Zoo is proud of our tremendous success we have had with cheetah breeding. To accommodate our growing cheetah population, the CCC was expanded to a total of 15 enclosures in 2018.

aerial view of the CCC

Khari and Hatari mating – February 2015

Milani 3 months pregnant – September 2014 

ZAA Excellence in Breeding Award

The Metro Richmond Zoo is the recipient of the 2017 ZAA Excellence in Breeding award for our work in cheetah conservation! In 4 years, we have had 40 cheetah cubs born. Thank you for the recognition, Zoological Association of America.

Zoo Director, Jim Andelin, receiving the award at the 2017 ZAA conference.

Milani giving birth on September 19, 2014

Video tour of the Cheetah Conservation Center

Cheetah Cubs born in 2016

                                              CHEETAH LITTERS

2019

Naya

  • Naya, a first time mother, gave birth to 5 cubs on October 20, 2019
  • 5 females
  • Naya was 5 years old
  • Iraja, a first time father, was 10 years old

Fatuma

  • Fatuma, a first time mother, gave birth to 2 cubs on October 14, 2019
  • 2 males
  • Fatuma was 4 years old
  • Kalu, a third time father, was 4 years old

Khari

  • Khari, a third time mother, gave birth to 3 cubs on September 19, 2019
  • 1 male and 2 females
  • Khari was 8 years old
  • Kitu, a sixth time father, was 11 years old
  • Cubs’ names: Kovu, Kamara, Savannah

Lana

  • Lana, a third time mother, gave birth to 3 cubs on September 18, 2019
  • 2 males and 1 female
  • Lana was 10 years old
  • Kalu, a second time father, was 4 years old

Wiay

  • Wiay, a second time mother, gave birth to 2 cubs on August 12, 2019
  • 1 male and 1 female
  • Wiay was 8 years old
  • Kitu, a fifth time father, was 11 years old
  • Cubs’ names: Luka and Leilani

2018

Vaila

  • Vaila, a second time mother, gave birth to 7 cubs on November 30, 2018
  • 4 males and 3 females
  • Vaila was 7 years old
  • Kalu, a first time father, was 3 years old
  • Septuplet cheetahs happen only 1% of the time
  • Vaila and this litter are currently on exhibit in the Zoo

2017

Khari

  • Khari, a second time mother, gave birth to 4 cubs on July 20, 2017
  • 2 males and 2 females
  • Khari was 6 years old
  • Hatari, a fourth time father, was 9 years old
  • Cubs’ names: Bakari, Kai, Kiara, Zuri

            

2016

Wiay

  • Wiay, a first time mother, gave birth to 6 cubs on April 2, 2016
  • Litters of 6 cubs only happen 8% of the time
  • Because of her inexperience, she accidentally laid on one cub shortly after birth and it passed away
  • Remaining 3 males and 2 females are doing well
  • Wiay was 4 years old
  • Kitu, a fourth time father, was 8 years old

Vaila

  • Vaila, a first time mother, gave birth to 7 cubs on April 1, 2016
  • Litters of 7 cubs only happen 1% of the time
  • Because of her inexperience, she did not clean the birth sac surrounding one cub and it did not survive
  • One cub was born with a deformity and only lived a few hours
  • Remaining 3 females and 2 males are doing well
  • Vaila was 4 years old
  • Hatari, a third time father, was 8 years old

Milani

  • Milani, a second time mother, gave birth to 3 cubs on March 21, 2016
  • 2 males and 1 female
  • Milani was 6 years old
  • Hatari, a second time father, was 8 years old

2015

Khari

  • Khari, a first time mother, gave birth to 4 cubs on May 12, 2015
  • 1 female and 3 males
  • 1 male cub died shortly after birth
  • Khari was almost 4 years old
  • Hatari, a first time father, was 7 years old
  • Kumbali was pulled from this litter and raised by zoo staff with a puppy (Read more here)
  • Cubs’ names- Kalu (m), Kumbali (m), Amina (f)

Lana

  • Lana, a second time mother, gave birth to 6 cubs on April 29, 2015
  • 4 females and 2 males
  • 1 female cub died shortly after birth
  • Lana was 5 years old
  • Kitu, a third time father, was 7 years old
  • Cubs’ names- Dakari (m), Zuberi (m), Fatuma (f), Layla (f), Siti (f)

2014

Milani

  • Milani, a first time mother, gave birth to 5 cubs on September 19, 2014
  • 4 females and 1 male
  • 2 female cubs died shortly after birth
  • Milani was 3 years old
  • Kitu, a second time father, was 6 years old
  • Cubs’ names- Hasani (m), Neema (f), Naya (f)

2013

Lana

  • Lana, a first time mother, gave birth to 5 cubs on October 6, 2013
  • 3 males and 2 females
  • This was the first litter of cheetahs born at the MRZ
  • Lana was 4 years old
  • Kitu, a first time father, was 5 years old
  • Cubs’ names- Richie (m), Rico (m), Chester (m), Amelia (f), Hanna (f, deceased)

Cheetah Family Tree (As of 2016)

(Infographic by Sarah Lockwood)

Lana and her cubs – November 2013

Pie graph of all cheetahs born in captivity in North America by location in 2015. The MRZ is represented in green.

At this time, we do not have the cheetah cam operating. Stay tuned for future cheetah birth announcements.

Each year, the MRZ makes significant contributions to the Cheetah Conservation Fund and Cheetah Conservation Botswana in Africa. Our visitor round-up donations are used to help our cheetah conservation program.


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