Smithsonian National Zoo

Cheetah Cubs Are Born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Cubs Can Be Viewed on the Live Cheetah Webcam

Oct. 12, 2021

Video Courtesy of Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Carnivore keepers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, welcomed a litter of five cheetah cubs today. Five-year-old female Rosalie birthed the cubs at 5:20 a.m., 8:24 a.m., 9:42 a.m., 10:33 a.m and 11:17 a.m. ET. The family can be viewed via the Cheetah Cub Cam https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/cheetah-cub-cam. Ten-year-old Nick, who was the first cheetah born at SCBI, sired this litter. Animal care staff will leave Rosalie to bond with and care for her cubs without interference, so it may be some time before they can determine the cubs' sexes. The cubs appear to be strong, active, vocal and eating well. Keepers will perform a health check on the cubs when Rosalie is comfortable leaving them for an extended period of time.

Staff are closely monitoring Rosalie and her cubs’ behaviors via webcam. Virtual visitors can observe Rosalie and her cubs on this temporary platform until the cubs leave the den. Keepers provided Rosalie with access to multiple dens, so it is possible she may move the cubs to an off-camera location.

"Seeing Rosalie successfully care for this litter—her first—with confidence is very rewarding," said Adrienne Crosier, cheetah reproductive biologist at SCBI and head of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Cheetah Species Survival Plan. "Being able to witness the first moments of a cheetah’s life is incredibly special. As webcam viewers watch our cheetah family grow, play and explore their surroundings, we hope the experience brings them joy and helps them feel a deeper connection to this vulnerable species."

SCBI is part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition—a group of 10 cheetah breeding centers across the United States that aim to create and maintain a sustainable North American cheetah population under human care. These cubs are a significant addition to the Cheetah SSP, as each individual contributes to this program.

The SSP scientists determine which animals to breed by considering their genetic makeup, health and temperament, among other factors. Rosalie and Nick were paired and bred July 9 and 10. Keepers trained Rosalie to voluntarily participate in ultrasounds, and SCBI veterinarians confirmed her pregnancy Aug. 16. Since 2007, 16 litters of cheetah cubs have been born at SCBI.   

Cheetahs live in small, isolated populations mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of their strongholds are in eastern and southern African parks. Due to human conflict, poaching and habitat and prey-base loss, there are only an estimated 7,000 to 7,500 cheetahs left in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers cheetahs vulnerable to extinction.

The Zoo’s legacy of conservation work extends beyond the public Zoo in Washington, D.C., to SCBI in Front Royal, Virginia. Scientists at SCBI study and breed more than 20 species, including some that were once extinct in the wild, such as black-footed ferrets and scimitar-horned oryx. Animals thrive in specialized barns and building complexes spread over more than 3,200 acres. The sprawling environment allows for unique studies that contribute to the survival of threatened, difficult-to-breed species with distinct needs, especially those requiring large areas, natural group sizes and minimal public disturbance.

SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Virginia, the Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.


National Zoo’s Four Cheetah Cubs Turn One!

Yesterday, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Biology Institute celebrated their cheetah cubs’ first birthdays!

On April 8, 2020, female cheetah Echo gave birth to four healthy cubs.

The birth was livestreamed on the Zoo’s website.

Cheetah Biologist Adrienne Croiser said of the past year, “I hope you learned a lot about cheetahs along the way.

Cheetahs face a lot of challenges in the wild, but I think that the more people can connect with and come to understand animals in a personal way, the more they feel inspired to take action and be part of the solution.”  

 


His Name Is Xiao Qi Ji

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s 3-month-old giant panda cub received his name today. After five days of voting and just under 135,000 votes, the winning name is Xiao Qi Ji (SHIAU-chi-ji), which translates as “little miracle” in English. It was one of four Mandarin Chinese names that were offered for a public online vote from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20 on the Zoo’s website. Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and Xiao Qi Ji’s birth offered the world a much-needed moment of joy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. His name reflects the extraordinary circumstances under which he was born and celebrates the collaboration between colleagues who strive to conserve this species.

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“Connecting people around the world with nature, whether in person or in this virtual setting, is a cornerstone of our mission to conserve and protect giant pandas for future generations,” said Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. “Like many who have followed our giant panda cub since his birth last summer, I tune in to the Giant Panda Cam from time to time. Watching Xiao Qi Ji always puts a smile on my face. We are grateful that those who share in our joy have helped us pick the perfect name for our panda cub.”

Xiao Qi Ji was born at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat Aug. 21, at 6:35 p.m. to mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and father Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN). His birth was streamed live on the Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, and since then more than 1.5 million virtual visitors have tuned in to watch him grow. Giant panda fans can see Xiao Qi Ji, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian via the Giant Panda Cam, one of five live animal webcams hosted on the Zoo’s website. The Zoo will continue to provide updates on Xiao Qi Ji on its website, on social media using the hashtags #PandaStory and #PandaCubdates and in the Giant Panda e-newsletter.

As part of the Zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all cubs born at the Zoo move to China when they are 4 years old. The Zoo’s current cooperative breeding agreement expires in December 2020. The Zoo is currently discussing the arrangement of the giant pandas beyond Dec. 7 with colleagues in China.

As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is closed to the public.

Photo Credit: Roshan Patel, Smithsonian’s National Zoo


Public Can Vote To Name Smithsonian’s National Zoo Giant Panda Cub

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is asking the public to help name the male giant panda cub, now 9.2 pounds of adorable, at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat. The Aug. 21 birth was streamed live on the Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, and since then more than 1 million virtual visitors have tuned in to watch him grow. Voters can select their favorite name from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20 on the Zoo’s website (maximum one vote per day). The name that receives the most votes will be bestowed on the cub. The Zoo will announce the winning name Nov. 23.

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Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and the birth of this cub offered the world a much-needed moment of joy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The possible names—chosen by the Zoo and Chinese partners—reflect the extraordinary circumstances under which this cub was born and celebrate the collaboration between colleagues who strive to conserve this species. The possible cub names are:

  • Fu Zai (福仔) [fu-tzai]—prosperous boy
  • Xiao Qi ji (小奇迹) [shiau-chi-ji]—little miracle
  • Xing Fu (幸福) [shing-fu]—happy and prosperous
  • Zai Zai (仔仔) [tzai-tzai]—a traditional Chinese nickname for a boy

The Zoo will continue to provide updates on the cub on its website, on social media using the hashtags #PandaStory and #PandaCubdates and in the Giant Panda e-newsletter. Giant panda fans can see the cub, mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and father Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN) via the Giant Panda Cam on the Zoo’s website. It is one of five live animal webcams hosted on the Zoo’s website.

At 22 years old, mother Mei Xiang is the oldest giant panda in the United States to give birth. Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute reproductive scientists and Zoo veterinarians performed an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang March 22 with frozen semen collected from Tian Tian, who turned 23 years old Aug. 27. This is the first time a zoo in the United States has experienced a successful pregnancy and birth via artificial insemination using only frozen semen. Zoo veterinarians confirmed evidence of a fetus on an ultrasound Aug. 14 and Aug. 17.

As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute has updated its hours and entry requirements. The panda house at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is currently closed to provide quiet for Mei Xiang and her cub. Asia Trail—including giant panda viewing—is temporarily closed to visitors for the scheduled repaving of walkways.

In addition to this cub, Mei Xiang has given birth to three surviving offspring: Tai Shan (tie-SHON), Bao Bao (BOW BOW) and Bei Bei (BAY BAY). Tai Shan was born July 9, 2005, and moved to China February 2010. Bao Bao was born Aug. 23, 2013, and moved to China in February 2017. Bei Bei was born Aug. 22, 2015, and moved to China in November 2019. As part of the Zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all cubs born at the Zoo move to China when they are 4 years old. The Zoo’s current cooperative breeding agreement expires in December 2020.

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Photo Credit: Roshan Patel, Smithsonian’s National Zoo


It’s a Boy! Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cub Is Male

 

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s 6-week-old giant panda cub is a male, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) scientists confirmed. During the cub’s first veterinary exam Sept. 19, Zoo veterinarians obtained a swab from his cheek for DNA analysis. Outwardly, male and female cubs appear similar at birth, so a genetic test was the most accurate way to determine the cub’s sex. Veterinarians brought the swab to SCBI’s Center for Conservation Genomics, where scientists sequenced a short fragment of the zinc finger protein gene. The X and Y chromosomes both have this gene, with slightly different DNA sequences. Scientists determined that the swab sample taken by the Zoo’s veterinarians has both sequences present—confirming that the cub is male. A painting created by male giant panda Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN), the cub’s father, was used to reveal the sex of the cub to giant panda keepers and fans online.

The Zoo will continue to provide updates on the cub on its website, on social media using the hastags #PandaStory and PandaCubdates and in the Giant Panda e-newsletter. Giant panda fans can see the cub, mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and Tian Tian via the Giant Panda Cam on the Zoo’s website.

Zoo veterinarians say that the cub appears to be healthy and strong. During a brief exam conducted by the panda team Oct. 1, keepers took the cub’s measurements. He weighed 3.6 pounds and measured 14 inches from nose to tail tip. His abdominal girth was 12.5 inches. Both of the cub’s eyes are starting to open. Keepers are encouraged by his progress.  

At 22 years old, mother Mei Xiang is the oldest giant panda in the United States and the second oldest documented in the world to give birth. SCBI reproductive scientists and Zoo veterinarians performed an artificial insemination on Mei Xiang March 22 with frozen semen collected from Tian Tian, who turned 23 years old Aug. 27. This is the first time a zoo in the United States has experienced a successful pregnancy and birth via artificial insemination using only frozen semen. Zoo veterinarians confirmed evidence of a fetus on an ultrasound Aug. 14 and Aug. 17.

As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute has updated its hours and entry requirements. The panda house at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat is currently closed to provide quiet for Mei Xiang and her cub. Asia Trail—including giant panda viewing—is temporarily closed to visitors for the scheduled repaving of walkways.

In addition to this cub, Mei Xiang has given birth to three surviving offspring: Tai Shan (tie-SHON), Bao Bao (BOW BOW) and Bei Bei (BAY BAY). Tai Shan was born July 9, 2005, and moved to China February 2010. Bao Bao was born Aug. 23, 2013, and moved to China in February 2017. Bei Bei was born Aug. 22, 2015, and moved to China in November 2019. As part of the Zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all cubs born at the Zoo move to China when they are 4 years old. The Zoo’s current cooperative breeding agreement expires in December 2020.


Lively Litter of Seven Cheetahs Cubs Born

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The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) welcomed a litter of seven chirping Cheetah cubs July 9.

The cubs were born to first-time mother, Erin. Staff members report she has been attentive and immediately started caring for the cubs after they were born. The cubs appear to be healthy and doing well. Keepers will perform a health check on the cubs when Erin is comfortable leaving them for an extended period of time. In the meantime, the keepers will continue to monitor the mother and cubs closely through den cameras and visual checks to ensure they are growing and developing normally.

“It is really exciting to have such a large and healthy litter of cubs, especially from first-time parents,” said Adrienne Crosier, cheetah biologist. “Two of these cubs’ grandparents also live at SCBI, so they are the third generation from some of the first Cheetahs to ever live and breed here. That’s really good news for the Cheetah population worldwide. A global self-sustaining cheetah population in human care is becoming even more important with the continued decrease of animal numbers in the wild.”

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4_img_20180719_111536Photo Credits: Adriana Kopp/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The cubs are important to the population of Cheetahs living in zoos because Erin’s genes are not well represented in the population of Cheetahs living in human care in North America. This is also the first litter of cubs sired by the cubs’ father, Rico. It is the 12th Cheetah litter bringing the number of cubs born at SCBI since 2010 to 53. Erin's cubs will likely move to other zoos or facilities accredited by the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA) when they are mature and join the AZA Cheetah Species Survival Plan.

SCBI scientists are using a new fecal hormone test to determine pregnancy in cheetahs. Fecal samples from Erin will contribute to this research. Cheetah pregnancies last approximately 90 days, and it is difficult to tell if a female is pregnant until 60 days have passed. However, SCBI scientists are developing a non-invasive test to detect levels of IgJ, a protein synthesized by the immune system, in cheetah feces to determine if a female is pregnant in the first 30 days of her pregnancy.

Cheetahs are currently listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are only about 7,000 Cheetahs in the wild living in very fragmented habitats. SCBI is building a healthy and genetically diverse population of Cheetahs in human care using natural breeding and assisted reproduction techniques.

SCBI plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.  


National Zoo Welcomes Western Lowland Gorilla

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For the first time in nine years, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is celebrating the birth of a male Western Lowland Gorilla. The baby boy was born on April 15 and has been named Moke [Mo-KEY], which means “junior” or “little one” in the Lingala language.

The 15-year-old mother, Calaya, and 26-year-old father, Baraka, bred in summer 2017 following a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP).

Keepers have observed Calaya nursing the clinging infant, and they are cautiously optimistic that the newborn will thrive. The Great Ape House is currently closed to provide Calaya a private space to bond with her infant.

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4_img_4503_15apr18_msPhoto Credits: Matt Spence/ Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Using a human pregnancy test in the Fall of 2017, keepers confirmed that Calaya had successfully conceived. The team also trained Calaya to participate voluntarily in ultrasounds, so they have been able to monitor fetal growth and development throughout the pregnancy. On November 3, the Zoo finally announced her pregnancy and has been providing updates via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #GorillaStory. The Zoo will continue to share updates, photos and videos of the infant’s development.

“The birth of this Western Lowland Gorilla is very special and significant, not only to our Zoo family but also to this critically endangered species as a whole,” said Meredith Bastian, curator of primates. “The primate team’s goal was to set Calaya up for success as best we could, given that she is a first-time mother. Doing so required great patience and dedication on the part of my team, and I am very proud of them and Calaya.”

Continue reading "National Zoo Welcomes Western Lowland Gorilla" »


Help Name This Endangered Brown Kiwi Chick

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The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, and the Embassy of New Zealand in the United States are asking animal lovers to help name an endangered female Brown Kiwi chick.

Members of the public can submit name suggestions, until November 5, via the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s website: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/name-kiwi-chick . The top suggestions will be put up for a worldwide public vote via the Zoo’s Twitter account (@NationalZoo) on November 13.

Keepers describe the Brown Kiwi chick as fairly calm and laid-back, though she could become more cautious as she matures. She readily eats all of her food, but mealworms appear to be her favorite food. In the past three months, she has tripled her weight and now weighs about 2 pounds (908 grams), which is normal for a young Kiwi. Since Kiwi are nocturnal, she spends most of her day sleeping and only interacts with keepers during routine health checks and weigh-ins.

2_kiwi_chick_fp9a4882Photo & Video Credits: Roshan Patel/ Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The chick hatched at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) earlier this summer between July 29 and July 30. She is the fifth chick for her parents “Ngati Hine Tahi” and “Ngati Hine Rua”, and she is their first female offspring.

Ngati Hine Tahi and Ngati Hine Rua were both gifts from New Zealand in 2010. Their three older male offspring who hatched at SCBI in 2016 are named Kaha, Hari and Kake. New Zealand’s Ambassador to the United States, Tim Groser, named Kaha (“strong” from Maori). The name Hari translates as “joy”, and Kake translates as “to overcome.”

Kiwi are sacred to the Maori people in New Zealand. SCBI repatriates feathers molted from its Kiwi to New Zealand.

SCBI’s Kiwi participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Brown Kiwi. The chicks born there enter a breeding program when they are fully mature. The SSP makes breeding recommendations to match the birds with mates that will increase the genetic diversity of the population living in human care.

Brown Kiwi are monogamous and usually mate for life. Kathy Brader, bird keeper at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, serves as the SSP coordinator for Brown Kiwi living outside of New Zealand.

Brown Kiwis (Apteryx mantelli) are flightless nocturnal birds that are native to New Zealand. They are classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN, due to non-native predators introduced by humans. They lay the second-largest eggs for body size of any bird—an average 20 percent of the female’s body weight.

In 1975, the Zoo became the first facility to hatch a Brown Kiwi outside of New Zealand. SCBI* has hatched six Kiwi eggs since 2012.

*SCBI plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Front Royal, Va., the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.