Racing to save the fastest land animal on the planet
The cheetah is Africa’s most endangered big cat. In 1900, the cheetah population was around 100,000 individuals. However, due to habitat loss, human conflict, and illegal animal trade, the cheetah’s current wild population is in drastic decline. It is estimated there are around 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild. As of today, the cheetah inhabits only 23% of its historic African range. Cheetahs in the wild have an extremely high mortality rate. 90% of cubs die within the first three months of life. 50% of these deaths are attributed to predation and the other 40% fall victim to a lack of genetic diversity.
Cheetah population in fast decline – Illustration provided by Tess Sheehey
AT THE ZOO
Breeding cheetahs in zoological parks is very challenging. Only a small portion of the population is breeding. For instance, in 2013, only 8 liters of cheetahs were born in the United States.
The Metro Richmond Zoo was up for the challenge. In 2011, the Zoo purchased 52 acres of land adjacent to the current zoo property. We launched massive efforts in support of cheetah conservation. Construction began on the Cheetah Conservation Center (CCC), a private specialized area dedicated solely to the conservation of cheetahs. The CCC originally contained 10 enclosures for cheetahs. Construction on the CCC was completed in 2012, and seven female cheetahs arrived at the Zoo to join our two male cheetahs. In 2012, our cheetah population was 9. Four years later, our cheetah population would grow to be 35.
After a three month gestation, on October 6, 2013, Lana gave birth to five cubs. This was the first litter of cheetah cubs for the MRZ. As of 2021, we have had 77 cubs born at the CCC from 18 different litters. These births have made significant additions to the cheetah population. Some of the adult cheetahs at the zoo are unrelated to the other cheetahs in North America, so the genetic value of cubs for future breeding is extremely high. The Metro Richmond Zoo is proud of our tremendous success we have had with cheetah breeding. To accommodate our growing cheetah population, the CCC was expanded to a total of 15 enclosures in 2018.
ZAA Excellence in Breeding Award
The Metro Richmond Zoo is the recipient of the 2017 ZAA Excellence in Breeding award for our work in cheetah conservation! Thank you for the recognition, Zoological Association of America.
Zoo Director, Jim Andelin, receiving the award at the 2017 ZAA conference.
Milani Gives Birth to 5 Cheetah Cubs
Septuplet Cheetah Cubs Born
Video tour of the Cheetah Conservation Center
Since 2013, 77 cheetahs have been born at the zoo from 18 different litters.
Learn about our most recent litters.
At this time, we do not have the cheetah cam operating. Stay tuned for future cheetah birth announcements.
Each year, the MRZ makes significant contributions to the Cheetah Conservation Fund and Cheetah Conservation Botswana in Africa. Our visitor round-up donations are used to help our cheetah conservation program.