San Diego Zoo Global Joins Cheetah Breeding Coalition

San Diego, California - San Diego Zoo Global, which has been breeding cheetahs for more than 40 years, yielding more than 130 cubs, has recently joined the national cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC) to create a sustainable cheetah population that will prevent extinction of the world's fastest land animal. In addition to the nine breeding facilities, it is expected that more than 100 other organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that already house cheetahs will also join this coalition in a nonbreeding capacity.

There are eight other organizations participating in the breeding program for this endangered species: Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas; White Oak Conservation Center in Jacksonville, Fla.; The Wilds and the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio; the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va.; the St. Louis Zoo; the Wildlife Safari in Ore.; and Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in Neb. The BCC was borne out of discussions at an AZA Species Survival Program (SSP) meeting when participants agreed that current breeding efforts were not yielding a sustainable population.

"Assessment of North American breeding protocols by the cheetah SSP revealed that if we continued with our current breeding plans we would no longer have cheetahs in our collections within the next 50 years," said Matt Anderson, director of behavioral biology for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. "As a leading partner, San Diego Zoo Global is working closely with the other Breeding Center Coalition members to ensure that cheetah numbers increase significantly over the next decade, ultimately resulting in a sustainable 'safety net' population in case we need to reintroduce cheetahs back into the wild sometime in the future."

The nine-member coalition's goal is to achieve a sustainable zoo population of cheetahs within 10 years. To achieve this goal, the facilities have set a target of 15 cheetah cub litters to be born each year. A typical cheetah litter has about three cubs, which would total 45 cubs per year among the nine breeding centers.

The nine participants in the cheetah BCC will work closely to communicate about various management topics including husbandry, training, housing, research and overall support for providing the best care of cheetahs that will establish the sustainable population. Typically, the AZA regulates the SSP for cheetahs based on genetic representation of individuals in its accredited facilities. The BCC members will work closely with the cheetah SSP to determine where cheetahs will live and if they will go on to participate in the breeding program when they become sexually mature.

It is estimated that the worldwide population of cheetahs has been reduced from 100,000 in 1900 to just 10,000 at present, with about 10% of those living in zoos or wildlife parks. In 2014, the annual San Diego Zoo Safari Park Half Marathon and 10K run, presented by HealthNet, will raise money for the Park's cheetah breeding facility with a goal of building insulated nursing dens for mother cheetahs and their cubs, in addition to furthering wildlife conservation efforts around the globe. To learn more about the Safari Park Half Marathon and how to register to participate and raise funds, go to www.safariparkhalf.com

The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The Conservancy makes possible the wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) of the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries. The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

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