Staffers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia will be raising a cheetah cub for the next few weeks.
The male was the only cub in his litter to survive, the institute said in a statement, which required keepers to intervene.
“We know from cheetahs in human care there is not enough stimulation to keep milk production going for a singleton. In the wild, a female cheetah would abandon a lone cub. If this cub was to survive, we had to step in,” said Adrienne Crosier, cheetah reproductive biologist at SCBI and head of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Cheetah Species Survival Plan.
The cub was born on Thursday to a 7-year-old female named Sukiri. While Sukiri nursed the surviving cub overnight, she started to ignore it the next morning.
So now, keepers are feeding the little guy a special formula every two to three-and-a-half hours in the institute’s vet hospital.
After a few weeks, he’ll be sent off to another zoo that is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, where a female is set to give birth in a few weeks. He’ll then be introduced to his new foster mother and the litter.
“While we can care for this cub in the short term, it’s important he learns how to be a cheetah from other cheetahs close to his age and have the attention of an adult female cheetah soon,” Crosier said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers cheetahs vulnerable to extinction: There are only about 7,000 to 7,500 of them left in the wild.
Keepers say the cheetah cub is “strong, active, vocal and eating well.”
Check out some video of the sweet little kitty below.