A cheetah at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler is a new mother to four cubs of her own and a bonus mom to an adoptive cub from a zoo in Oregon.

Caldwell Zoo made the announcement of cheetah, Mary Jo, giving birth to four healthy cubs over the weekend on its Facebook page.

Paul Swen, director of marketing for the Caldwell Zoo, said the breeding was made possible because of the zoo’s involvement in the Cheetah Breeding Coalition.

The coalition is dedicated to collaborating with zoos to provide expert care and maintain the genetic diversity of the cheetah in America, Swen said.

“It’s very scientific. They know its whole lineage,” Swen said. “Pairing is keeping the diversity up well.”

Cheetahs like Mary Jo and her cubs are endangered. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, 6,674 adults remain in the wild. Most reside in southern and eastern Africa with a small number in the Asian continent.

Swen said a healthy cheetah cub is a great benefit to increasing the cheetah population.

For this particular breeding, Caldwell Zoo collaborated with Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose and a safari park, Wildlife Safari, located in Winston, Oregon.

Through the partnership with Wildlife Safari, a fifth cub came to Caldwell Zoo in hopes of being adopted by Mary Jo’s little family.

At that facility, a cheetah named Paca gave birth to a single female cub on Oct. 16. But when cheetahs have just one baby, their body doesn’t give all that the cub might need.

“Unfortunately, with cheetahs in captivity or in the wild, when they give birth to a single cub it does not stimulate the mother enough to produce milk for the cub past a couple days of nursing,” Wildlife Safari said in a Facebook post.

Wildlife Safari officials said they acted quickly to get the cub to Tyler in hopes of Mary Jo cross-fostering with her biological cubs.

Sarah Roy, carnivore supervisor for Wildlife Safari, said the trip took about 37 hours and they arrived at Caldwell Zoo last Wednesday afternoon.

The cub had to be bottle fed every four hours, and Roy said it was tricky but she did fairly well.

“We were really excited to get her with a new mom in a few days,” she said.

Roy described the cub as having a good healthy weight at birth, so the staff named her Kubwa, which means large in Swahili.

She said Kubwa’s birth was a smooth process and Paca was very maternal and caring. So, the Wildlife Safari staff is very hopeful that she’ll get pregnant again and be a great mom with a bigger litter.

Wildlife Safari states on its website that with 220 cheetahs born at its facility, it has the most successful cheetah breeding center in America.

Roy said Kubwa was the most genetically valuable cheetah this year to come out of the facility’s breeding program.

She added that the timing of the births at both Wildlife and Caldwell was amazing.

Mary Jo left the cubs to eat some food, and Kubwa was added to the four cubs while she was away. When Mary Jo returned, she sniffed and licked the cubs before nursing soon after.

“She immediately took the cub in and starting grooming it like it was hers,” Roy said.

Swen said the area for the cheetahs is private for breeding and the number one concern is privacy ahead of eventual public viewing.

It’s been a few years since Caldwell has had cheetah cubs born. There’s at least six cheetahs at the zoo most times, Swen said.

Now that the cubs are born, the new family needs time for the cubs to receive all the nutrition they need.

Swen explained new cheetah moms can be very sensitive and the cubs can be delicate. Zoo officials are hardly going into the habitat so that mom and babies aren’t disturbed.

“Mom has her den and we’re letting her have it,” he said.

Swen explained it will be a number of weeks before people will be able to see the cubs. The first month is an especially important time for the cubs to get enough nutrition.


I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.

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