Three young cheetah brothers have sprinted into a new home at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo as part of the European Endangered Species Programme.
Two-year-old brothers Freddie, Robyn and Billy were flown to the attraction in Bedfordshire from Fota Wildlife Park in Ireland.
Visitors will be able to spot the speedy, new additions in the zoo‘s existing 4000m2 custom-designed cheetah habitat, Cheetah Rock.
The cheetahs, who were all born in the same litter, have a close bond according to keepers.
Whipsnade‘s Team Leader of Predators, Sarah Mcgregor, said: “The new cheetahs are very affectionate with one another. They’ll playfight, but they’ll also groom one another and snooze together.”
Unlike many other big cat species, male cheetahs often form small groups with other male relatives – known as coalitions, while female cheetahs tend to live on their own, or with their cubs.
Sarah Mcgregor continued: “It’s been fantastic getting to know them. Robyn and Billy were very relaxed about the move, but we’ve had to spend a little more time getting Freddie used to his new surroundings, as he’s a much more cautious character. They’ve settled in here wonderfully though – once they’d explored Cheetah Rock, they all had a relaxing nap in the sunshine. As fast as cheetahs can be, they also like to chill out and love to sunbathe!”
Visitors to the 600-acre zoo may be lucky enough to spot the energetic, young trio displaying their climbing skills, as explained by Mcgregor: “Freddie, Robyn and Billy are all incredible climbers, so we’ll be utilising ropes and climbing posts within their habitat each day to get them hunting for and climbing high for their food. Using these natural skills is so important for their muscle development, fitness and wellbeing. It’s also a sight to behold!”
More than 90% of the global cheetah population has disappeared since 1900 and there are now estimated to be less than 7,000 cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) in the wild. Numbers are declining dramatically due to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as human-animal conflict and the illegal pet trade.
ZSL conservationists help cheetah populations across Africa, protecting key cheetah landscapes and joining up isolated patches of habitat. ZSL conservationists are also working to understand and reduce conflicts between human communities and cheetahs, research wild cheetah populations and combat illegal wildlife trade.
Main image credit: ZSLWhipsnadeZoo