CINCINNATI – With the second death of a premature cheetah cub, the Cincinnati Zoo acknowledged it is fighting an uphill battle to keep the remaining three alive.
The cubs have been receiving around-the-clock care in the zoo nursery since they were born via C-section on March 8, but their low birth weight and underdeveloped systems put them at risk.
“All of the cubs have struggled with digestive issues. Their weight gain has been inconsistent, up one day and down the next,” said Dr. Mark Campbell, Director of Animal Health. “The cubs are now teething, so getting enough calories into them is even more challenging. Their gums hurt, which makes feedings uncomfortable.”
The mother also died two weeks after giving birth. The 5-year-old was lethargic and had no appetite even though zoo staff thought she would make a full recovery, according to a zoo spokesperson.
The three remaining cubs, two females and one male, will continue with vet checks every three hours, and nursery staff is providing critical care 24/7.
“The cubs’ condition has been guarded since day one. They lack immunities that their mother’s milk would have provided, making them more susceptible to infection and less able to overcome what would normally be minor developmental issues,” said zoo Director Thane Maynard. “While not entirely unexpected, the loss of this 5-week-old cub has been particularly hard on zoo staff.”
Since the mother cheetah's death, the zoo has used a "nanny dog" - a male Australian Shepherd dog – for the cubs to climb on and get exercise.
An orphaned cheetah cub from Oregon recently joined the litter.
The male cub from Oregon, born 12 days before Cincinnati Zoo’s cubs, was not able to be cared for by his mother at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon.