Five new Northern cheetah cubs have been born in Fota to parents Grainne and Archie, the wildlife park confirmed today.
The three females and two males were born on August 10 and like to spend their days playing with their mother in their leafy home on Cheetah Hill. Grainne, who gave birth to the cubs, is four years old and was born in Fota Wildlife Park. While she previously gave birth to a litter of three cubs on Saint Patrick’s Day last year, 12-year-old Archie is a first-time father.
The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world today and is also the oldest of our living big cat species. Head ranger, Julien Fonteneau says he was excited to see the cubs being born.
"Personally this is my first time to witness the birth of such a big litter. Five cubs are certainly very rare. I’m thrilled to say that they all are thriving," he said.
"The cubs are very active and a delight to see every day, up at the top of their habitat playing and annoying their mother Grainne, who seems to be taking it all in her stride. We’re asking the public to vote to name the cubs via an online form on our blog and to be in with a chance to win one of five Conservation annual passes."
With less than 800 Northern cheetahs left in the wild, they are an endangered species, and 238 cheetahs have been born at Fota Wildlife Park since 1984. Fonteneau says their birth shows the public the work done by organisations like Fota Wildlife Park, which is a conservation and education charity, to protect endangered species.
"With each year, wild populations of cheetah are coming under greater threat of extinction from habitat destruction and human persecution," he says.
"These births are a great way to educate the public about the collaborative work that zoos do under the auspices of EAZA breeding programmes (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) to conserve the genetic diversity of endangered and vulnerable species, like the cheetah.
"For example, the father of the cubs, Archie, was transferred to Fota Wildlife Park from a zoological facility in Dubai to take part in the EEP here at Fota. The Cheetah is synonymous with Fota Wildlife Park, the image of the species is used in our logo and our director, Sean McKeown, coordinates the stud book for the breeding of the captive Northern cheetah population in European zoos.”
In recent weeks, Fota Wildlife Park, which is open daily from 9.30am, received an anonymous donation of €25,000, which will be put towards the husbandry and welfare of the animals in its care.