For the first time in its history, eight baby cheetahs were born late last year at the St. Louis Zoo.
Born at the St. Louis Zoo River’s Edge Cheetah Breeding Center on Nov. 26, 2017 the cubs, three males and five females, are doing well and will remain in their private, indoor maternity den behind the scenes at River’s Edge for the next several months.
The St. Louis Zoo said it will be several months before the cubs make their public debut to give their mother more time with the babies.
According to the St. Louis Zoo, in over 430 litters documented by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), this is the first time a cheetah has produced and reared on her own a litter of eight cubs at a zoo. The average litter size is three to four cubs.
The mother, four-year-old Bingwa continues to impress the zoo’s cheetah care team, saying that she continues to be an exemplary mother to her new offspring.
“She has quickly become adept at caring for her very large litter of cubs — grooming, nursing and caring for them attentively,” said Steve Birder, curator of mammals/carnivores.
Bingwa is on loan to the St. Louis Zoo from Wildlife Safari in Winston, Ore. and nine-year-old father Jason is on loan from White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Fla.
The birth of these new cubs is a result of a recommendation from the AZA Cheetah Species Survival Plan, which is a program specifically tailored to manage a healthy population of the big cats in American zoos.
“We’ve brought together cheetahs from great distances to continue this important breeding program,” Bircher said in a written statement. “These handsome cats add genetic diversity to the North American Cheetah SSP population.”
The St. Louis Zoo is one of the nation’s leaders in cheetah reproductive research and breeding. Since 1974, over 50 cubs have been born at the Zoo’s Cheetah Breeding Center.
To help protect cheetahs in the wild, the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Conservation of Carnivores in Africa is working with its partners in Tanzania and Namibia to coordinate cheetah conservation efforts, including education, research and other programs to mitigate human-cheetah conflicts.
“Cheetahs are frequently persecuted for killing livestock. Our conservation partners are finding ways to improve the lives of local herders by providing education opportunities, food, and medical supplies, so they can live peacefully with cheetahs and support their protection,” Bircher said.