The National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra has officially introduced the newest member of their pack to the world – a four-month old male cheetah cub, named Solo.
While most cheetah litters range from three to five cubs, this aptly-named little boy was a rare single-cub birth, and has been lovingly hand raised by two specialist keepers, Kyle Macdonald and Aline IJsselmuiden, as mothers of single cubs generally have difficulty producing milk.
Both Kyle and Aline have gained extensive experience in raising cubs at one of Africa’s foremost cheetah centres, Cheetah Outreach, and they have been living on-site at the zoo for the past four months to ensure Solo is showered with care, love and attention around the clock.
This 11 kilogram, active and cheeky little boy was also introduced to his equally energetic playmate, a similarly aged Border Collie / Belgian Malinois cross puppy called Zama. The two have become best friends since meeting when Solo was just one month old and are inseparable.
Visitors now have the unique opportunity to meet Solo and Zama through the zoo’s Meet-a-Cheetah programme, where they can spend some time in the enclosure with them.
The two mates will also go on daily walks with their keepers and visitors can book to be a part of this 40-minute walk, followed by a 10-minute encounter with them.
Solo and Zama are not yet on public display and can only be viewed on one of the above encounters or by guests staying at Jamala Wildlife Lodge.
As cubs grow very quickly, these exclusive experiences will only be available for a short time.
• Cheetahs are the fastest land animal on Earth and can already reach speeds of more than 80 kilometres per hour by the time they are six months old. Once full grown, they can reach this speed in 2.5 seconds and reach an average top speed of 110 kilometres per hour.
• Cheetahs cannot roar, but they do purr when happy and content.
• Average life expectance of a cheetah in captivity in Australasia is 12-14 years, but can go up to 16. In the wild, few cheetahs live beyond 7-8 years of age. Their life span depends greatly on their circumstances and environment.
• Young cheetahs play spirited, athletic games to release pent-up energy. Stalking, pouncing, chasing, boxing, wrestling, and tug-of-war are all common games. Play is more related to hunting tactics than fighting.
• Cheetahs are the most endangered big cat in Africa, with their population drastically declining in the last 20 years, with only an estimated 7,100 remaining in the wild. The main reason for their decline is due to habitat loss and the resulting loss of ungulate herds they depend on for their food source. They are also highly vulnerable to interspecific competition with other large predators such as lion, hyena, and leopard. Less than five percent of cheetahs reach adulthood and predation accounts to more than 70 percent of mortality from known causes.
• Zoos make significant contributions to cheetah conservation in a number of ways, including partaking in a cheetah SSP Research Master Plan involving an extensive research programme into breeding and the causes for a declining wild population. The National Zoo & Aquarium is part of the international cheetah studbook and breeding programme which registers all cheetah held in zoological facilities, and provides information about existing animals, thus creating the pre-conditions for selecting breeding animals. Each animal has its own studbook number and a species survival plan for cheetahs has been formulated across the globe in order to ensure the propagation of the species.