Adorable seven-week-old cheetah cub hand-reared by keeper

Adorable seven-week-old cheetah cub has to be hand-reared by her keeper after her mother abandoned her when she was just 10 days old

  • The cub was found cold and weak after Wilma, her mother, left her alone
  • Nicknamed Xena after the warrior princess, the cub is being bottle-fed
  • The hand-rearing is such a success that her weight has already doubled 

She’s only seven weeks old but this adorable cheetah cub is already winning hearts with her fighting spirit at a safari park.

Nicknamed Xena after the warrior princess to highlight her battling qualities, the cub was discovered when 10 days old, cold and weak after being abandoned by her mother.  

After failed attempts to reunite the mother and daughter, the keepers at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire have been hand-rearing Xena, bottle feeding her every four hours, day and night.

 Xena the abandoned Cheetah cub is thriving after being hand reared by her keepers at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire


Keeper Matt Cleverley, above, gives round the clock care to the seven-week-old female cub, nicknamed Xena after the warrior princess to mark her battling qualities

Her mother Wilma gave birth to cubs Winston and Poppy in 2016 and was a ‘brilliant’ first time parent so the keepers have no clue as to why she has abandoned Xena.

The cub, who was born on April 9, has doubled in weight since the keepers began hand rearing her, after fears she would die without their intervention.

She will start to be weaned on to a meat diet in the coming weeks and eventually it is hoped she will be able to fend for herself.

She’s only seven-weeks-old but this adorable cheetah cub is already winning hearts with her fighting spirit at a safari park

The cub, who was born on April 9, has doubled in weight since the keepers began hand rearing her, after fears she would die without their intervention

As with human babies, little Xena does require round-the-clock care. The cheetah is officially classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species

Keeper Matt Cleverley, who previously hand-reared a cheetah while working in Africa, volunteered to look after the tiny cub along with his wife Kate, a fellow keeper.

Mr Cleverley said it was an ‘extremely difficult’ decision to step in, but it was necessary to give Xena the best chance of survival. 

‘No one is sure why Wilma, who was such a brilliant first time mum with cubs Winston and Poppy, should have abandoned Xena,’ he said.

‘We did everything we could to try and get her to re-bond with the baby but it wasn’t working and we were faced with an extremely difficult choice of not interfering and letting the cub die or stepping in and attempting to rear her by hand.

‘It’s a huge responsibility and we’re taking it day by day but she is developing well and has already more than doubled her birth weight so we’re cautiously optimistic that she will make it.

‘As with human babies she does require round-the-clock care and attention and Kate and myself share the duties between us.

Keeper Matt Cleverley with little Xena, who has shown her fighting spirit, just like her namesake

No one is sure why Wilma, above, who was such a brilliant first time mum with cubs Winston and Poppy, should have abandoned Xena

‘It does mean the cub comes home with us at the end of each day but it’s going to be very much worthwhile if we can help get her to a stage where she can fend for herself,’ he added.

The cheetah is officially classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species which means it is likely to become ‘Endangered’ unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

In 2008 the IUCN estimated there to be around 7,500-10,000 adult cheetahs in Africa and there are concerns the numbers have decreased significantly since then.

Longleat’s cheetahs are part of the European Endangered Species Programme

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