WINSTON — Another cheetah cub was born at the Wildlife Safari in Winston last weekend. He heads to a zoo in California next weekend.
He’s the 174th cub born at the Safari since it began its cheetah breeding program in 1972. Cubs have gone to zoos and breeding centers around the country, including the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and the Honolulu Zoo.
Because he’ll be hand-raised by people, the cub is fated to become an “ambassador cheetah.” That means he’ll be allowed closer contact with humans in outreach efforts, said the wildlife park’s carnivore supervisor, Sarah Roy.
The Safari currently has three ambassadors: 8-year-old Taini, who stays at the park, and 2-year-old brother and sister Khayam and Mchumba, who venture out into the community.
The unnamed cub’s mother is Moyo, a first-time mom. The sire is Frankie, who was born in 2007 and is named for Wildlife Safari founder Frank Hart. It was also his first litter, though his brother, Andy, has sired several.
The pregnancy was detected by ultrasound at day 30, the earliest detection of a cheetah pregnancy in the park’s history, Roy said. When the cub emerged Saturday, Roy was watching through surveillance cameras.
“(Moyo) kind of looked at it and sniffed it, and didn’t even look like she knew what it was,” Roy said.
Knowing an abandoned newborn cub can survive only a few minutes on its own, Roy crawled into the birthing den and ripped open the slick sac enveloping the cub. She cleared its airway and stimulated it to take its first breaths by rubbing and tapping it, and rushed the cub to a warm incubator.
Moyo herself was hand-fed as a cub and is thus more comfortable around people. Roy was relieved Moyo greeted her in the den, but she wasn’t sure how the cat would react.
“It was one of the most intense moments of my career,” Roy said. “It was pretty crazy.”
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.