Toronto Zoo’s five cheetah cubs, born on April 30, 2017 to first-time mom Laini, are growing by literal leaps and bounds in our off-exhibit cheetah breeding area!
The three male and two female cubs now weigh between 5.2 and 6.0 kg — over ten times their weight at birth. At twelve weeks of age, the cubs are now completely weaned from mom and have transitioned to eating solid food. Their principal food is the Toronto Zoo’s feline diet (meat with added vitamins and minerals), but they are slowly being introduced to new foods like whole prey items to expand their dietary diversity and provide enrichment. The cubs have already tried quail carcasses, and each nowreceives a dead day-old-chick daily. Every day the family also gets a large bone, which they all sit around and chew on together!
Laini, who is on loan from Parc Safari as part of a cooperative breeding program, has been an excellent first-time mom with her rambunctious cubs. They recently received their vaccine booster shots allowingthem to explore all of the sights, sounds, and smells in an outdoor yard for the first time. Even at this young age, keepers have noted that each cub is developing their own personality. One of the females and two of the males are more bold and curious, while the other two (one male and one female) are a bit more nervous if mom isn’t nearby. Two of the male cubs have been receiving medical attention for their small umbilical hernias.
Visitors to the new Windows on Wildlife Science (WOWS) gallery of the Wildlife Health Centre on July 12th or 18th had the opportunity to see both cubs undergoing these procedures! Although cheetahs all have individual spotting patterns, it can be challenging to tell the cubs apart because of their long fur and indistinct markings.
To help tell who is who, the cubs have each had a small patch of fur shaved on their left or right hip or shoulder, with the exception of one female who has no shaved patches.
Cheetahs are very sensitive to disturbance, and so Laini and the cubs will remain off display for a few more months until the cubs are ready to handle the big move to the exhibit. Stay tuned for ongoing updates!
The Toronto Zoo is participating in a cheetah conservation breeding program through the Species Survival Plan (SSP) program. The cheetah has been listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.