IN PICTURES | A risky 'phenomenon' as cheetah gives birth via C-section

Note: Images may be too graphic for sensitive readers, please exercise caution

06 October 2020 - 14:00
A female cheetah gave birth to three healthy cubs via caesarean.
A female cheetah gave birth to three healthy cubs via caesarean.
Image: Liesl Vorster

A rescued female cheetah has increased the gene pool rate by giving birth to three healthy cubs via caesarean.

According to the University of Pretoria’s Wildlife Clinic and Veterinary Academic Hospital, Juno, a four-year-old cheetah from Cheetah Experience in Bloemfontein, gave birth to a stillborn cub last Sunday.

Juno then went about her normal routine before staff at the organisation noticed movement in her abdomen.

“After this incidence of difficulty giving birth (dystocia), Juno did not appear to be in labour any more and went about her normal routine. However, the caring staff at Cheetah Experience noticed movement in Juno's abdomen and it was determined that she still had some cubs,” said the hospital.

Juno was taken to the wildlife clinic, where a specialist wildlife veterinarian in the faculty's wildlife unit, Dr Jacques O'Dell, immobilised and examined her.

During an ultrasound, it was discovered that June still had three foetuses present in the uterus.

The hospital said all three foetuses were found to be alive, healthy, and considered full-term. Cheetah females have a gestation period of about 90-98 days.

“Domestic cats are known for having the ability to pause labour and resume it a few days later,” said the hospital.

“This phenomenon is not well studied in wild felids and due to the unique challenges in intensive monitoring of labour in wildcats, the decision was taken to not risk the lives of the mother and the cubs and to rather proceed with a caesarean section.”

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THE JOY OF DELIVERING THREE NEW HEALTHY CHEETAH CUBS AFTER A C-SECTION Staff in the Faculty's wildlife and reproduction...

Posted by Faculty of Veterinary Science, Onderstepoort on Thursday, 1 October 2020

Speaking to TimesLIVE, the hospital said the decision to perform the emergency caesarean was to save the mother and her cubs.

“The hospital performed the caesarean to save the three unborn cubs, along with the cheetah, and the mother recovered well,” it said.

Juno was rushed to theatre, where specialist veterinary anaesthesiologist Dr Roxanne Buck and her team kept Juno and the cubs alive during surgery.

Anaesthesiologist resident Dr Abdur Kadwa was instrumental in resuscitating the newborns. At birth, the average weight of a cheetah cub is between 250g and 500g.

“While Juno was recovering from the anaesthetic, the team ensured that the cubs had an opportunity to suckle from their cheetah mom. These first few sips of milk (known as colostrum) are vitally important as it contains antibodies and strengthens the cubs' immune systems,” the hospital said.

“After the mom recovered sufficiently from the procedure, she went home to raise her three cubs so they can also one day contribute to the cheetah gene pool.

“The current conservation status of the cheetah is classified as vulnerable.”