FRONT ROYAL, Va. — Stripes may be all the rage right now thanks to Tiger King, but in the DMV, we're seeing spots! Five-year-old Echo the cheetah became a new mom, giving birth to four healthy cubs, sired by 4-year-old Scott.
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute welcomed the chirping cubs on April 8, the 14th liter born at SCBI since 2007. Though it was Echo's first pregnancy, keepers are confident in her maternal abilities, particularly given how quickly she's adjusted to her new role.
For now, keepers are merely monitoring the new family via the same cheetah cam the public can watch, and they'll observe Echo to make sure she remains attentive to the cubs. Echo left the den for the first time on April 9, but only for a minute or two at a time, keepers said.
"It’s thrilling and humbling to witness something as special as an animal birth," Steve Monfort, director of the SCBI, said. "I’m eager to watch the newborn cubs in their early days."
According to keepers, the cubs are active and nursing regularly, and Echo has been responsive to their squeaking noises, which usually means they want to eat. She's also been regularly grooming her cubs, which is another sign that she's acclimating well to motherhood.
At this stage, the cubs will grow rapidly, gaining 50 grams per day, according to keepers. They are expected to open their eyes four to seven days after birth, but for now, they'll spend most of their time cuddled up with mom, and each other.
"During this extremely tumultuous and isolating time, we want the new cheetah cam and all our live animal webcams to provide much needed moments of relief and inspiration from our natural world," Monfort said.
SCBI is part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition—a group of 10 cheetah breeding centers across the United States that aim to create and maintain a sustainable North American cheetah population under human care. There are only an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild.