Early in July, the veterinarian at Burgers' Zoo faced a remarkable task: chipping, worming and sexing six cheetah cubs. The sextuplets, born at the end of May, are doing well. A litter of six is unusual in itself (usual: three or four), and for this first-time mother even more so!
The mother of the cubs was also born at Burgers’, and the father is from a zoo in Salzburg, Austria. In the wild, cheetahs are solitary. Males and females seek contact only when it is time to mate. Individuals of the opposite sex housed together in a zoo are likely to regard each other as siblings rather than mates. The zoo in Arnhem has enough separate enclosures for the cheetahs, so they are brought together only briefly, for mating. This seems to work well, as last year cheetah triplets were born, and now the sextuplets.
The birth was kept under wraps for a time. In the first critical weeks, disturbing the nursery causes stress in the mother and can even lead to her killing her cubs. Fortunately, the sextuplets were given peace and quiet, so they seem healthy and active. All six are growing well.