A Mother’s love saves an “At Risk” cheetah cub

Who knew that cheetah cubs born without a sibling are considered at risk?  A mother cheetah will often shun a litter with only one cub so she can breed again for a larger litter.  In addition, nature may take over and her milk could dry up with only one cub.  The Smithsonian National Zoo convinced a cheetah named Zazi to step in as a foster mom to a cub born 10 days after her own, whose mom rejected her. Both cubs are doing fine now!

Pawnation reported the following:

Zoologists at the Smithsonian National Zoo have successfully convinced a 9-year-old cheetah named Zazi to become the foster parent of an at-risk cub.

In December, Zazi and first-time mother Amani gave birth to cubs 10 days apart. The problem, however, is that both proud mamas delivered only one cub each — which turns out to be a problem for mother and cub alike.

“At Great Risk”
Single-cub litters, referred to as “singletons” by zoologists, are often at great risk because their mothers typically don’t produce enough milk. Though it sounds counterintuitive, according to the Smithsonian, mothers in the wild will often let single cubs die, freeing the mothers up to breed again.

“The mother will not produce enough milk, she’ll actually dry up and then neglect the cub,” explains Steve Monfort, director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

To ensure that the two unnamed cubs (one male, one female) would be able to nurse successfully, the zoo elected to try a somewhat risky practice known as “cross-fostering.” That is, if Zazi would adopt the other mother’s male cub, there’s a good chance that she’d produce enough milk to feed her litter of two.

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