Tanganyika ended 2016 with our very first litter of cheetah cubs. I am very proud of our carnivore team for learning the specific clues cheetahs give to determine when they are ready to breed. Tanganyika is known for its success in breeding clouded leopards and snow leopards. However, our clouded pairs live together and so do our snow leopards for the most part so much of their breeding is observational for keepers. Cheetah females are induced ovulators which means if kept with males for too long of a period they will start to see them more like a brother and not cycle. Males are walked down a hallway that shares a common fence line where the female cheetahs live while they are inside their building eating. If a male shows interest in a female’s yard, he will be allowed into that yard to scent mark and then he will be walked back to his home yard. The females will be let back into their yards and the keepers watch for any signs of interest.
Another interesting aspect of our story is that the proud parents of our five cubs are both hand raised animals. This is a very controversial subject in the zookeeping world now. Facilities such as ours believe in the pulling of our cubs to better acclimate the animal to life in captivity. These cubs are cared for in such a matter that allows better adjustments through cage changes, transfers, training, vet procedures, and overall comfort to be in the eyes of the public day to day. It is believed that hand raised cubs will not be successful breeders. We currently have 2 hand raised males, 1 mother raised male, and 5 hand raised females.
Please remember while visiting our nursery in the spring, that the cute and cuddly mini versions of these wild predators will not remain safe for handling in their adult lives. While hand raised animals are easier on themselves and equipment please note that when you compare a wild animal to a captive animal. The captive animal is the most dangerous as it has lost its fear of humans. They are not to be used in the same sentence as a pet.
By Animal Curator, Stephanie Jeter