TORONTO, ON, Friday, July 28, 2017
- Our 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 now receives 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 allowing them 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.
Please note, as mom and cubs remain off exhibit, media are not permitted in the maternity area of the Cheetah Habitat. Toronto Zoo staff will provide updates, photos and video as they become available.
Enrichment at the Toronto Zoo aims to enhance our animals’ environments by providing them with opportunities that stimulate their natural behaviours. Giving animals opportunities to follow their natural instincts is as essential to their overall health and well-being as good nutrition and medical care.
Many different forms of environmental enrichment are used throughout the Zoo to encourage natural behaviours and provide choice in an animal’s daily routine. Some devices may encourage foraging behaviours while others are strictly for play. Eating or feeding behaviours are of particular importance at the Zoo, since finding food – whether through foraging or hunting – is a principal concern of all animals in the wild. A carnivore’s hunting and feeding behaviours may include smelling, licking, clawing, chewing and consumption of all edible parts, chewing on bones and tearing through skin. Therefore, at the Zoo, we offer our carnivores these large and complex food items to encourage them to perform a host of natural behaviours – and take significantly longer for them to consume. As well, carnivores that engage in social feeding gain an extra benefit from this type of enrichment experience.
The goal of any enrichment program is to mimic the natural environment as closely as possible. While our carnivores have been receiving this form of enrichment behind-the-scenes for a while, this summer we will be providing feedings on exhibit, which we hope will provide an educational and immersive experience for visitors.