A “Purr”fect Parent

Cheetah at the St. Louis Zoo has 8 cubs.


Carolyn Kelly

Bingwa sits with her eight fluffy cheetah cubs.

Bingwa, the four-year-old Cheetah on loan to the St. Louis Zoo, welcomed a litter of eight fluffy cubs on November 26, 2017.

For those excited to see the young cubs at the zoo however, the Bingwa and her cubs will remain out of public view for the coming months. While in the maternity den, “‘[Bingwa] has quickly become adept at caring for her very large litter of cubs — grooming, nursing and caring for them attentively,’” curator of mammals/carnivores, Steve Bircher said in a press release.

Her litter of three boys and five girls is quite large for a cheetah in captivity, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “This is the first time a female cheetah has produced and reared on her own a litter of eight cubs at a zoo. The average litter size is three to four cubs,” the press release from the zoo stated.

Over the past 50 years, cheetahs have become extinct in at least 13 countries”

— St. Louis Zoo Press Release

The zoo views this large litter as a very important step in keeping the cheetah species alive. “‘We’ve brought together cheetahs from great distances to continue this important breeding program,’” said Bircher. The program is viewed as important due to the dwindling number of cheetahs in the wild. While cheetahs are only currently listed as vulnerable the zoo’s press release pointed out that “[o]ver the past 50 years, cheetahs have become extinct in at least 13 countries,” adding that there are only around 1000 left in a section of Africa where they use to be found in larger numbers.

The World Wildlife Foundation’s website states that, “The cheetah is endangered throughout its range due to loss of habitat, reduced prey and direct persecution.” Bircher explained the persecution. “‘Cheetahs are frequently persecuted for killing livestock’” he said, adding that the zoo’s “‘conservation partners are finding ways to improve the lives of local herders by providing education opportunities, food and medical supplies, so they can live peacefully with cheetahs and support their protection.’”

As for students wishing to help the cheetahs, they can call the zoo at (314) 646-4771 to see how they can help. Along with this, the zoo’s website has a “Do-it-yourself conservation” section found under the conservation tab for students who want to get involved.