Behind the scenes with Parc Safari cheetah cubs

Published: Aug. 16, 2017 at 7:23 PM EDT
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At first glance, Mosi and Jelanie might look like your average, playful cheetah cubs at the Parc Safari zoo in Hemmingford, Quebec, but they have come a long way to get there. The two cubs were the only ones to survive in their litter. Due to health concerns, their mother, Akeelah, had to have a C-section one week before their due date.

"First of all, they were premature, so Akeelah didn't even produce milk at that point. It was way too early in her pregnancy to start producing milk. And most carnivores, when they do have a C-section, don't recognize the cubs as their own," said Nathalie Santerre, the director of Zoology.

They needed close care and spent three weeks in an incubator and were bottle fed. Because their mother never recognized them, the staff at the zoo has been raising them by hand. Now, they're 3 months old. They've been learning a lot from the zookeepers who take care of them.

"So just sit, lay down, to be a good cheetah if they... if we keep them with us, so be an ambassador, so keeping them friendly if you can say that. So, yes, we have to keep them with good manners and not be too stressed with people around," said Violaine Garant, a zookeeper.

For now, the cubs have been spending most of their time in their own little space in a building, with some limited play time in their very own enclosure. But starting Sept. 1, they will be letting the cubs out officially for the public to come by and see.

They're the first cheetah cubs to ever be born at Parc Safari. Zoologists say cheetahs have a difficult time reproducing whether they're in the wild or in captivity. They say many cheetahs are infertile and the females can be very picky in choosing their mates.

"Only 7,000 are left in the wild. The loss of habitat is the major source of issues for them. Cheetahs don't do very well in a very populated environment," Santerre said.

By raising healthy cheetahs in captivity-- like these two boys-- they hope they can prevent the cats from becoming extinct and eventually increase the population in the wild.

And Parc Safari welcomed a second litter in July. Two male cubs were born healthy and are doing well with their mom. It will be a few months before they will be out for the public to see.

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