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Monarto veterinary nurse outcheats a cheetah
A veterinary nurse’s inspired idea has saved the life of a newborn cheetah at Monarto Safari Park.
In an Australasian first, a veterinary nurse and her team have saved a newborn cheetah in an unusual way.
There was some good news and some bad news in Monarto earlier this month.
The good news was that a single cheetah cub - or singleton - was born at Monarto Safari Park late on the evening of Sunday 5 March.
The bad news was that when some big cat species such as the cheetah give birth to only one cub, they can’t produce enough milk to sustain the newborn.
Keepers and the veterinary team at Monarto took the cub into 24-hour care and gave her hourly feeds after her mother Quella had abandoned her.
The cub stayed warm in a humidicrib with some fluffy friends, including a heartbeat teddy and a cheetah soft toy.
Quella’s sister Qailee was also expecting, and on Sunday 12 March she delivered two tiny cubs of her own.
Zoos SA’s veterinary nurse and hospital manager Dianne Hakof then decided to try a technique never tried before – to cross-foster Quella’s cub into Qailee’s litter.
“We hand-reared the first little cub for eight days while we waited for Qailee to give birth, whilst finalising plans for the cross-fostering and ensuring Qailee had the best opportunity to rear her own litter,” Ms Hakoff said.
Early on 14 March, Ms Hakoff crawled into Qailee’s den to place the single cub with her new siblings.
The plan worked.
“We didn’t want that cub smelling like us, so we rubbed some of the straw that was in the den on the singleton cub and we toileted the others and put some of their urine on the foster cub,” Ms Hakoff said.
“Then we left … and we waited – within 24 hours, Qailee was feeding all three cubs, and it was amazing.”
Qailee and her three cubs are now happily snuggling, feeding and spending time bonding as a blended family.
Cheetahs are sadly close to extinction, with only 6,000 remaining across eastern and south-western Africa.
You can do your bit for cheetah conservation at Monarto Safari Park and in the wild.
More information: zoossa.com.au/cheetahbirth.
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