Cheetahs are probably the fastest land mammal, but they are having a tough time outrunning extinction. Humans steal their cubs for pets and cut their habitat. They are also plagued by competition from lions, leopards and hyenas.
But many humans are seeking not only to prevent extinction but to save and expand the cheetah’s range.
Zoos are in the forefront of preventing extinction and the National Zoo is announcing the recent birth of two cheetah cubs to help stave off that grim possibility. Formally known as the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, the facility announced the births and the opening of a temporary cheetah cam.
According to the zoo website:
“Carnivore keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, welcomed a litter of two cheetah cubs. First-time mother, 4-year-old female Amani, birthed the cubs Oct. 3 around 9:17 p.m. and 11:05 p.m. ET. This is also the first litter sired by 7-year-old father Asante. As the first offspring of both parents, the cubs are genetically valuable. They appear to be strong, active, vocalizing and nursing well. Animal care staff are closely monitoring Amani and her cubs’ behaviors via the Cheetah Cub Cam on the Zoo’s website. Virtual visitors can also observe Amani and her cubs on this temporary platform until the cubs leave the dens.”
Genetically valuable refers to the need to maintain as much diversity among the species as possible, Lack of genetic diversity leads to inbreeding and eventual extinction. This is a problem faced by both mountain lions locally and tigers in India.
Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) were once widespread across Afirca and much of Asia to India. However it is now estimated that only about 7,000 remain in the wild. Most are in Africa, but a few remain in Iran. India once had a large population but it was annihilatd by 1952.
Conservation groups around the world are rallying to the cheetahs rescue. Their efforts include both traditional conservation measures and what may be termed “rewilding.” Rewilding seeks to return species to areas from which they have disappeared. Great Britain for example is reintroducing animals long disappeared from that Island
The best example with cheetahs is the recent Operation Cheetah in India. A handful of cheetahs from Africa have been brought to India in an effort to reintroduce them to that country. India appears serious about the effort even recruiting elephants as security guards to protect the cats during the initial phase of the project.
In Iran the Iranian Cheetah Society has partnered with the World Land Trust in an effort to save the cats in that nation.
There are about 37 species of cats in the world. Despite the spots (rosettes) cheetahs are not closely related to leopards and jaguars. They are closer to Mountain lions, (Puma concolor) and Jaguarundis (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), small Central and South American wild cats.