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St. Louis Zoo cheetah gives birth to record eight cubs

A momma cheetah in St. Louis just gave birth to a record-setting litter, but she may be too busy to give it much thought right now. 'Bingwa' now has eight - yes eight - cubs to take care of.

The cheetah cubs, three males and five females, were born at the Saint Louis Zoo River's Edge Cheetah Breeding Center back on November 26. The zoo says Bingwa and her cubs are all doing well.

It's the first time in 430 litters documented by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that a female cheetah has produced and reared a litter of eight cubs at a zoo on her own. The average litter size for a cheetah is three to four cubs.

A St. Louis Zoo press release says it appears that all eight are healthy. Four-year-old Bingwa, which means "champion" in Swahili, continues to be an exemplary mother, according to the cheetah care team.

"She has quickly become adept at caring for her very large litter of cubs -- grooming, nursing and caring for them attentively," offered Steve Bircher, the curator of mammals/carnivores at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Bingwa and the cubs will remain in their indoor maternity den behind the scenes at the zoo for the next several months.

Zoo experts say fewer than 10,000 cheetahs remain in their native area of Africa, and less than 100 cheetahs remain in Iran. Over the past 50 years, cheetahs have become extinct in at least 13 countries.

Bingwa is on loan to the Saint Louis Zoo from Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon, and 9-year-old father Jason is on loan from White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida. The litter is the result of a breeding recommendation from the AZA's Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program which oversees the population of cheetahs in North American zoos.

"We've brought together cheetahs from great distances to continue this important breeding program," continued Bircher. "These handsome cats add genetic diversity to the North American Cheetah SSP population."

LINK: Saint Louis Zoo website