Seventh Heaven! 7 Cheetahs Born at Virginia Conservation Institute

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia, hit lucky number seven: The facility recently welcomed seven cheetah cubs.

The chirping septet was born on July 9 to first-time mother Erin and first-time dad Rico, SCBI staff shares in a press release. Erin has taken to mothering like a natural; she started caring for the cubs immediately after they were born.

All seven of the cubs are healthy, and keepers at SCBI will know more about the baby cats, including their sexes, when Mom feels comfortable letting their keepers close to her little family.

“It is really exciting to have such a large and healthy litter of cubs, especially from first-time parents,” Adrienne Crosier, cheetah biologist, said in the release. “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.”

Along with being a welcomed dose of cute for the world, the cheetahs are also an important protection for their species, especially since Erin’s genes are not well-represented in the captive cheetah population. Having a genetically diverse cheetah population under human care could eventually assist the dwindling wild cheetah population, which can struggle with genetic diversity.

Cheetahs are listed as “vulnerable” in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with only an estimated 7,000 left in the wild

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