Australian Zoo Successfully Introduces Abandoned Cheetah Cub to Another Mother's Litter

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A cheetah cub born at Monarto Safari Park in South Australia has been successfully introduced into its aunt’s litter after being abandoned by its mother.

The single cub was born to seven-year-old Quella in Monarto Safari Park on March 5 but was abandoned shortly thereafter.

Zoos SA hospital manager Dianne Hakof said big cats sometimes abandon single cubs due to issues with lactation.

“With cheetah cubs, if the mother only has one or two cubs, her ability to have lactation the whole way through that rearing event is diminished so sometimes at about three weeks old (…) the mom’s milk dries up and she can’t feed them anymore,” Hakof said.

Luckily, Quella’s sister Qailee was due to give birth to two cubs on March 12. Quella’s cub was hand-reared for eight days with the hope it could join Qailee’s litter.

On March 14, shortly after Qailee gave birth to her litter, staff at Zoos SA attempted to join the cubs.

Keepers tried to make the foster cub smell like Qailee’s litter by rubbing it with straw and urine from Qailee’s cubs, Zoos SA said.

“Within 24 hours she was feeding all three cubs,” Hakof said. “She can now feed all three cubs the whole way until they’re weaned rather than us actually doing any of the hand-rearing.”

Zoos SA said they believed the successful introduction of the foster cub was a first in Australasia. The zoo took guidance from White Oak Conservation in the United States, who have previously successfully joined cheetah litters.

The cheetah cubs will go on exhibit when they are around three months old, Zoos SA said. Credit: Zoos SA via Storyful