A 5-year-old cheetah named Willow had to have a rare C-section last week at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. The birth took place on March 8 at the zoo’s regional cheetah breeding facility. Following the birth, the cubs — which consisted of three boys and two girls — were taken to the Cincinnati Zoo Nursery where they have been receiving around-the-clock veterinary care and bottle feeding. They will remain in the nursery for a minimum of eight to 12 weeks.
“The cubs were born under difficult circumstances,” said Dr. Mark Campbell, Director of Animal Health at the Cincinnati Zoo in a press release. “For puppies and kittens the vast majority of their passive immunity comes from their mom’s milk especially the colostrum. Their immune systems are not developed very well at all at this time so they are unable to actively ward off infections. We are doing all we can to keep them healthy and strong, but it will be a challenge for these cubs moving forward.”
Campbell, who has been with the zoo for 25 years, said that this is only the third C-section he’s been involved with. A true team effort, Campbell handled the anesthesia while Jenny Nollman, DVM, conducted the surgery and Greg Levens, DVM, assisted. Veterinary technicians and zoo staff were helping with the cubs.
“The decision to do the procedure is complicated and involved discussion amongst the veterinary, curatorial and keeper staff," Campbell said. "The procedure went well. Mom is recovering, and we’re working hard to put some weight on the premature cubs. Important benchmarks for survival of these cubs are the first week and month of life.”