Visiting the zoo is a great pastime for people of any age. Parents and children alike love to view the exotic animals that they otherwise would never get to see in person. Wild animals are fascinating to people because they represent the unknown in a very literal sense. Even though these animals live side-by-side with humans, and have for thousands of years, our knowledge of them is still fairly limited. Human curiosity is a powerful thing, and that curiosity has allowed us to forge a relationship with the animal world that is one of admiration and mutual survival.
There aren’t many animals in the kingdom that are as interesting as the different species of big cats. They are exceptionally beautiful, and their movements are both powerful and hypnotic. While zoos are great for seeing animals of all shapes and sizes, you can’t deny the larger exhibits that feature elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees, and lions are some of the most awe-inspiring. Many people visit the zoo specifically to see their favorite large beast.
Cheetahs are perhaps one of the most interesting animals you might find in a zoo. They are the fastest land animal by far, reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour when at a dead sprint. Even their average running speed of 40 miles per hour is daunting. When they are still, cheetahs are both breathtakingly gorgeous and wildly intimidating.
Cheetahs are classified as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN, which is the organization responsible for classifying species as endangered or extinct. The vulnerable rating means that cheetahs aren’t thriving, but they aren’t in direct danger of extinction. Their populations must be closely monitored in order to prevent their numbers from falling into the endangered category. That’s why events like what happened at the Metro Richmond Zoo in 2014 are so vital.
The Metro Richmond Zoo is home to a cheetah name Milani. In 2014, Milani was just 3 years old, but she was about to give birth for the first time. Zoo workers installed a camera into her pen, assuming she would give birth in the isolated enclosure. Most cheetahs give birth to liter sizes between one and eight cubs, while the typical liter size is closer to four cubs.
When Milani started to show signs that she was about to give birth, the zoo staff grew excited. The next morning, they approached her pen from outside the enclosure and examined the scene. Milani could be seen with two cubs, but the workers couldn’t get a good look inside the pen. They decided to examine the footage from the camera they had installed, and what they saw surprised them all.
Milani went into labor at a point in the early evening on the day before. She could be seen pacing the inside of her enclosure, looking for the best place to give birth. Over the span of 6 hours, she gives birth to five cubs. The zoo workers were astonished that they could only see two of the cubs from outside the pen, but they were thrilled that a liter of that size was born.
The video shows the cubs being born slowly, separated by at least an hour each. Milani lovingly cleans each cub after it is born, and by the time she is finished, she has five newborn cheetah cubs to look after. The cubs immediately begin nursing, and Milani takes a well-deserved nap. Events like these will help the cheetah population continue to grow larger, and hopefully they will be able to move off the ‘vulnerable’ list of species at some point in the near future.