WINSTON — The first cheetah born in the United States in 2023 came into the world Tuesday morning at Wildlife Safari.
According to Wildlife Safari spokesperson Michael Burns, cheetah mom Paca gave birth to her third litter, fathered by Sebu, at 4 a.m. after a three month gestation period.
“The first cheetah born in the whole country for this year,” said Rob Peter, lead cheetah carnivore keeper.
The cheetah cubs are constantly eating and sleeping near their mom, according to video monitoring at the drive-thru park. Staff are patiently waiting for Paca to come out to eat so they can approach the cubs to check their sex.
Peter said the cubs haven’t opened their eyes yet, so it is difficult for them to find the nipple.
During these past 90 days, the park has used ultrasound for the first 30 to 45 days and X-rays on day 60 to confirm the number of cubs to be born. Wildlife Safari prepared the yard and hunts for the mother cheetah after the cubs were born.
“We’re doing everything we can to make her as comfortable as possible,” Peter said.
Paca came to Wildlife Safari about three years ago as part of the Species Survival Plan, which helps to preserve the genetic diversity of cheetahs while increasing the population.
The fastest land mammal with a flexible spine and 20-foot stride is native to Africa. Cheetah populations declined dramatically in the 1990s due to habitat loss, poaching and hunting by farmers worried about livestock, with fewer than 10,000 individual cats in the wild in Africa, less than 100 in Iran and the highest concentration in Namibia, where there are about 3,000.
One of the rarest and most vulnerable species all over the world, 236 cheetahs have been born at Wildlife Safari, which is the second most successful breeding center on earth and the top center in the Western Hemisphere.
“We are fully breeding the most genetically valuable cheetahs,” Peter said. He added that the breeding program will use datasets to match the most distantly related pairs to further diversify genetics.
Peter is grateful for the long-term efforts and breeding success at Wildlife Safari and expects people will be able to see the cubs in person in a month.
“They’re very active and it’s a super good sign that they’re really big, strong, healthy cubs, so that’s great for us and great for them.” Peter said.