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Premature Cheetah Cubs Receiving Care At Cincinnati Zoo

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Five cheetah cubs were born by rare C-section and are being cared for in Clermont County.

Update 3/22/2016: The Cincinnati Zoo reports the mother of the five cubs, "Willow,"  has died. "Cheetahs are a fragile species and this difficult birth proved to be too much for her to pull through" said Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, in a statement. "Willow was able to contribute to the survival of her species by producing five cheetah cubs. Without the C-section, we likely would have lost both the mom and the cubs."

Credit Provided / Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Blakely is stepping in to help care for five orphaned cheetah cubs.

The Zoo is pairing the cubs with an Australian shepherd named "Blakely." He's the zoo's resident nursery companion giving the cubs a surrogate "to provide snuggling, comfort and a body to climb."

Original Post: Five cheetah cubs are being closely watched at the Cincinnati Zoo following a  rare C-section birth last week. The zoo says veterinarians had to step in and perform the surgery on the five-year-old mother "Willow."

The cubs, three males and two females, were born March 8 at the zoo's cheetah breeding center, Mast Farm, in Clermont County. They were moved to the zoo's nursery immediately and are receiving around-the-clock care, according to a release.

"The cubs were born under difficult circumstances," said Dr. Mark Campbell, director of Animal Health at the Cincinnati Zoo. "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 says the C-section decision was a tough one, adding this is only the third he has performed in 25 years.

The mother is reportedly recovering well and staff are "working hard to put some weight on the premature cubs."

The cubs will stay in the nursery for at least 8-12 weeks. Visitors may be able to see them through a window, but the zoo says most of their care will take place behind the scenes.

Fifty-four cheetahs have been born at the zoo's Mast Farm since it opened in 2002.