cheetah cub


Cheetah Cub at 15 Weeks

A cub from a previous litter at about the same age as Kiburi

Kiburi, the newest cheetah at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is 15 weeks old now (see previous post, Cheetah Cub Pounces).  He is growing into such a beautiful, handsome cheetah and weighs about 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms). His main diet consists of carnivore diet, a ground-meat product prepared especially for carnivores in managed care. Kiburi still gets his meat four times a day. He’s also been getting beef bones twice a week.

Our little cheetah has been receiving daily visits from our behavior team to start getting him ready to become an ambassador for cheetah conservation. Twice a day, Kiburi’s trainers come to the Park’s Animal Care Center, where Kiburi is staying, to bond with him. This is all part of his training to become one of the Park’s animal ambassadors. He has even been introduced to Hopper, one of the canine companions used by the Behavior Department.

Kiburi has been adjusting very well to all of these new exposures; he’s even been going outside to exercise for about an hour a day in an enclosed area. Through generous donations, we have plans to build a new off-exhibit cheetah enclosure for Kiburi where many of our other animal ambassadors reside. For now, Kiburi’s fans can continue to visit him and watch him grow at the Animal Care Center.

Sandy Craig is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.


Cheetah Cub Pounces

Kiburi was just three weeks old when this photo was taken.

Kiburi is getting so big! The little cheetah, born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on November 14, 2010, is weaned from milk now and on to carnivore diet mixed with canned cat food. (See previous post, Cheetah Cub at 32 Days.) Kiburi’s current feeding schedule is approximately 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m.

Kiburi knows when it’s feeding time; he becomes so excited to eat, calling out with a bird-like chirp! He dives into his bowl, making a huge mess in the process. He gets meat all over his face, feet, ears, and chest! Afterwards, we wipe him clean with a warm rag; he resists this cleaning, but momma cheetah would lick her cub clean.

Listen to Kiburi purr. [audio:http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/sounds/cheetah_cub_purr.mp3]

Listen to Kiburi as he squeals while being held. [audio:http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/sounds/cheetah_cub_squeal.mp3]

Listen to Kiburi as he chirps. [audio:http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/sounds/cheetah_cub_chirp.mp3]

Once he’s been fed and cleaned up, it’s play time! He gets to play on the floor of his room now; he runs and plays and pounces all over, giving his viewers an awesome show. The mane along the top of his head and back is getting longer and blonder. This mane will help him camouflage in the long grass, and it also protects him from the sun and rain. He’s changing every day, so hurry and come check him out at the Safari Park’s Animal Care Center, located in the Park’s Nairobi Village!

Sandy Craig is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.


Cheetah Cub at 32 Days

Kiburi, the newest cheetah at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is 32 days old now, and he’s getting more and more agile (see post Spotted Bundle of Fur). He uses his tail to help him balance when he cruises around on all four feet. He checks out the Park guests watching him while he’s in his exercise pen. He has a few teeth now, which he uses when he chews on his toys. His eyes are bigger and brighter, and his hearing is getting better. His ears are starting to move when he hears sounds. Another subtle change we are noticing is the hair on the top of his head and shoulders is getting longer and lighter than the rest of his body. His current weight is 994 grams, roughly 2 pounds.

Kiburi had his first taste of kitten canned food a few days ago. At first, he had a hard time figuring out what to do with it, but after he got the taste for it, he dove right in! Once he eats, he plays a little and then heads back into his sleeping den.
We look forward to new milestones every day, so stay tuned for future updates.

Sandy Craig is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.


Spotted Bundle of Fur

Well, you’ve probably seen him by now, our newest, fuzziest addition to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Animal Care Center! Say hello to Kiburi, our 19-day-old cheetah cub. His mother, Makena, who was hand raised herself, gave birth to two cubs in the late afternoon on November 14, 2010. (Read about Makena’s ultrasound procedure in New View of Cheetah Conservation). Unfortunately, one cub died a few hours after birth, and keepers had to intervene when Makena began showing signs of abandoning her remaining cub. He was brought to the Animal Care Center, where he immediately nursed a warm bottle for nursery keepers; soon after this, he began to purr. His weight at birth was less than a pound at 451 grams!

Kiburi, whose name means “proud” in Swahili, was named after longtime Senior Nursery Keeper Marcia Diehl (Marcia is Latin for “proud, warlike, or martial”). His current feeding schedule is every 2½ hrs (this schedule will change as he gets older). Park guests can view him inside of his temperature-controlled incubator; he sleeps between 16 and 20 hours a day! As he gets older, he will start to sleep less and become more and more playful. While his activity level increases, guests can look forward to seeing him in a larger play area!

Long-term plans for Kiburi are uncertain at this time, but he is most likely destined to become an ambassador to educate people about cheetahs and other endangered species. During this holiday season, make sure to bring friends and family to the Safari Park to catch a glimpse of our cute little bundle of fur!

Be sure to click on Kiburi’s images to view them in a larger size.

Sandy Craig is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gerenuk, Steenbok, and Sable Antelope Babies.

See video of Sandy feeding Kiburi.


Calling Cheetahs

Some sounds soothe. Some sounds annoy. And some sounds stimulate sexual behavior, like in cheetahs. And we have a new baby cheetah as a result of our conservation bioacoustics program.

Breeding cheetahs is a challenge, because the females do not show any obvious behaviors revealing their reproductive state. But when males sniff areas where female cheetahs have been, they sometimes utter a unique call: the stutterbark. Males will emit this call again and again and again while they pace their enclosure and check out the female cheetahs in the nearby enclosures. When the females hear the calls, they don’t respond at first. But when they hear some of the males call, it seems to trigger their hormone system and turn on some special behaviors.

Listen to a male’s stutterbark [audio:http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/sounds/cheetah_stutterbark.mp3]

So, Matt Anderson, San Diego Zoo Conservation Research Behavioral Biology Division, used some software to create a brand-new stutterbark that he played to the cheetahs at the Zoo’s Wild Animal Park research area. After hearing the sound of this “new male,” one of the cheetahs, Kenya, became very, very excited. She started rolling to-and-fro in the grass on her back, lifted up her tail tip and wagged it, and seemed to be checking out the male cheetahs nearby. When she was placed with a male named Quando, the two of them proceeded to mate. This was good news and the first time that cheetah breeding had resulted from using a sound recording.

Afterwards, Kenya’s poop samples were regularly checked for specific hormones by Corinne Pisacane, Behavioral Biology, to see if she was pregnant. Cheetahs are pregnant for about three months, and it looked like the breeding took. With bated breath we monitored her reproductive state and hoped for a new cheetah cub or a litter of cubs, since cheetahs often have three to four babies at a time.

Kenya did not disappoint us. She produced a daughter, but because it was only a single baby, and her first cub, caretaking was a bit of a problem. So the baby was brought to the Park’s Animal Care Center and will be incorporated into our cheetah education program. For now, if you want to see the baby, she is at the Wild Animal Park under the watchful care and supervision of the staff to make sure that she grows and develops into a healthy cheetah.

Fred Bercovitch is head of Behavioral Biology at San Diego Zoo Conservation Research.

Read a blog from Matt Anderson about our researchers’ acoustic studies, Rainy Days in Sensory Ecology Lab.

Read a previous blog about Quando and his brother, Quint, Cheetahs: Home Sweet Home.

Read Fred’s previous blog, The Koala in the Hat.

More images of the cheetah cub can be seen in What’s New?