Six years ago, Khayam and Mchumba were hand-raised by keepers beginning at just two days old. Taking care of baby cheetahs requires around-the-clock care, especially since the first few months are a cheetah cub’s most vulnerable time. Keepers needed to step in and hand-raise the two cubs because they were abandoned by their mother.
In general, cheetah mothers who have litters of 2 or fewer will abandon their cubs. Small litters do not stimulate the mother’s hormones enough to produce milk so she is unable to care for them. This is a survival adaption. Since cheetah cub mortality is so high, about 90%, the costs exceed the benefits of raising the small litter of cubs and the mother will breed again to hopefully have a larger litter. Khayam and Mchumba’s mom went on to successfully raise another litter.
Hand-raising a cheetah is a last resort for keepers. If a mother cheetah ends up abandoning the cubs, we look to other AZA accredited zoos that have had cubs born recently. If so we can have the successful mother foster the abandoned cubs. There were no new cheetah cubs born around the same time so this option was not available in Khayam and Mchumba’s case so keepers stepped in to save them.
Because they are hand-raised cats, Khayam and Mchumba are very comfortable around people. Since they were hand-raised and will not be entering the breeding population, keepers trained them to become ambassadors. They now go on encounters for guests of the park to see and they help represent all cheetahs in the wild. They are comfortable on leash and can be seen being taken on walks around the park.
Khayam and Mchumba go on outreaches all across Oregon and the surrounding states. They go to events like birthday parties, company picnics, and other big events. Having people see a real live cheetah in person helps them to better imagine cheetahs in the wild and become aware of cheetah conservation.
There are less than 8,000 cheetahs left in the wild. A portion of every encounter purchase here at Wildlife Safari goes toward conservation of wild animals. Come see Khayam and Mchumba at the Cheetah Spot in the Village or on a cheetah encounter!