Adorable Cheetah Cubs Land at the National Zoo

But it’s not an entirely happy tale.

By: Laura Wainman

Warning: This story involving parental abandonment and cute animals may take you on an emotional roller coaster. On April 23, two cheetah cubs were born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, only to be abandoned by their mother.

The cheetah cubs two days after they were born. Photograph by Adrienne Crosier, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

The first-time mom, Ally, rejected the male cub rather than nursing and cleaning him, which is apparently common practice for cheetahs under human care. With three cubs still to birth, Ally suddenly stopped having contractions, forcing SCBI vet Dr. Copper Aitken-Palmer to perform an emergency cesarean. Though cheetah cubs rarely survive this procedure, the SCBI team worked for three hours to resuscitate the three cubs, but were only able to save one female.

“[She] is a fighter. Once we got her breathing, she just kept going,” says Adrienne Crosier, an SCBI cheetah biologist.

The 17-day-old cubs. Photographs by Janice Sveda, Smithsonian National Zoo.

Unlike our favorite foodie-themed family of otters, these fluffballs are currently nameless. But baby girl and boy have been transferred to the National Zoo in good health, and will be hand-raised until they are strong enough to make their public debut later this summer.