There are few things more precious than getting the chance to witness nature unfold in all its glory. But for staff at the Metro Richmond Zoo, catching a glimpse of the wonders of nature is just part of their job. Despite this, nature still manages to surprise them every now and then.
On Nov. 30, 2018, the zoo welcomed seven new additions to their Chesterfield County zoo’s cheetah population when a cheetah named Vaila gave birth to septuplets. According to Jim Andelin, the owner of the zoo, this kind of thing happens rarely.
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“This is a very special birth to us because not only is it a big boost for cheetah conservation by increasing the captive population, but also a cheetah having seven cubs at once only happens 1 percent of the time,” Andelin said in a statement.
WTVR reported back in January that the cubs were healthy after getting their first set of shots. The cubs’ parents, mom Vaila is a second-time mother, and dad Kalu is a first-time father who was born and raised right at the Metro Richmond Zoo.
The zoo is home to over 2,000 animals, representing 180 species from around the world. Its cheetah conservation efforts have contributed to increasing the endangered species’ captive numbers.
— WTVR CBS 6 Richmond (@CBS6) January 25, 2019
In 2011, the zoo launched its Cheetah Breeding Program and began building the Cheetah Breeding Center (CBC), a dedicated facility for the conservation of these species. It features 10 enclosures reserved solely for the fastest animal in the world.
The facility was completed in 2012. Back then, it housed seven female and two male cheetahs, totaling nine. By 2016, that figure increased to a total of 35. Since then, 12 more cheetahs have been born at the facility.
Apart from its Cheetah Breeding Program, the zoo also boasts breeding programs for the African penguin and the Diana monkey.
AWWWWWWW! The Metro Richmond Zoo is celebrating the birth of seven cheetah cubs. The Zoo said having seven cubs at once only happens 1% of the time! http://bit.ly/2S4Jthh(Video courtesy: Metro Richmond Zoo)
Posted by WSYX ABC 6 on Thursday, January 24, 2019
“The cheetah is Africa’s most endangered cat and the wild population has severely declined, from 100,000 to only 7,000 individuals,” said Andelin. The main issues that currently threaten the species are the loss of habitat, loss of genetic variation, and conflict with humans.
The zoo’s mission, according to its website, is “to promote animal conservation and educate and inspire guests.”
“The Zoo seeks to promote animal education and conservation through the unforgettable animal interactions we provide our guests. Our hope is that as our guests leave the Zoo, they will have a newly kindled desire to become involved in the protection of animals,” as per their website.
Apart from its programs, the Metro Richmond Zoo also cooperates with other zoos and breeding programs around the world to raise the populations of endangered species.
On March 23, 2019, the zoo posted a video update on the current state of the cheetah cubs. Molly Waller, a vet tech at the zoo, talked about their most recent checkup. “Everybody looking great and are in perfect health. They started eating meat and are being really active and playing out in the yard. They go in seven different directions,” she explained. “Vaila’s being a good mom, although I’m sure she’s pretty tired. But she’s keeping up with everybody and taking really good care of them.”
“Vaila’s really got her paws full with this group,” she added.
Hopefully, the happy addition of the seven new healthy baby cheetahs signals a brighter future for this majestic and endangered animal.