Bedfordshire, UK - Cheetah mother 'Dubai' is on her guard as her seven-litter offspring make their public debut at Whipsnade Zoo, 36 miles north of London.
Seven northern cheetah cubs made their public debut during a photo call at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, north of London, on Wednesday (August 29).
The septuplets were born around twelve weeks ago, and seemingly enjoyed their first outing by frolicking and chasing one another around the cheetah enclosure.
For mother Dubai it's the second litter, after she gave birth to five cubs in 2010. Only three litters have ever been produced in a UK zoo, and soon enough Dubai's cubs will be playing a vital role in the survival of their species.
"Northern cheetahs are extremely rare, rumoured to be less than 250 in the wild so we're very excited for her to breed for a second time", said the zoo's Africa section deputy Marie Brown. "She's (Dubai) bred once before. She had five cubs with her first litter, which was a couple of years ago, which was the first northern cheetahs to be born in the country so we're very excited that she's produced again and this time instead of five she's gone to seven so we're very pleased with that."
The cubs are part of the zoo's European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) which aims to increase the population of endangered animal species. While they will be staying with mum Dubai for the next eighteen months, Brown says they will eventually be transferred to other European zoos to take part in breeding programmes.
"They'll feed off mum for quite a while but, yeah, they look like adults pretty much before we choose to remove them from mum which will probably be in about a year and a half's time."
"It's quite important to maintain the genetic diversity of specific species that are endangered in the wild. We try our best by having studbooks and putting unrelated pairs together and producing animals that are the most genetically capable of coping. If eventually we were able to breed enough of them to put them back into the wild if the environment was secure enough to do that," she added.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals, reaching speeds of up to 70 mph once fully grown.