First Cheetah Cubs Born at National Zoo

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  • Tumai, a female cheetah at the National Zoological Park, gives birth to the first litter of cheetah cubs born at the Zoo. Tumai arrived at the National Zoo in May 2004 from the Phoenix Zoo. Treasured by staff and visitors alike, she was most well-known for giving birth to the Zoo's first litter of cheetah cubs on November 23, 2004. Tumai was paired with male Amadi, and their offspring-two males and two females-went on to live at the Cape May Zoo in New Jersey, the Wildlife Safari Park in Oregon and the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin. The four cubs are the first of several litters she gave birth to and raised until her death in 2013 at the age of 13. Cheetahs are an endangered species, thus this was a major breakthrough in reproductive biology of cheetahs. Her cubs went on to live and take part in breeding programs at zoos across the United States.
  • In July of 2013 she died overnight when a tumor caused her spleen to rupture. She was 13 years old. Typically, female cheetahs in human care have a median life span of 10 years. Longevity studies have not been conducted in the wild. Most National Zoo animals participate in a breeding program called the Species Survival Plan. The SSP scientists determine which animals to breed by considering their genetic makeup, nutritional and social needs, temperament and overall health. Cheetahs live in small, isolated populations mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of their strongholds are in eastern and southern African parks. Due to human conflict, poaching and habitat and prey-base loss, there are only an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers cheetahs vulnerable to extinction.


  • National Zoological Park (U.S.)
  • Cheetah Conservation Station (Exhibition)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • "National Zoo mourns Tumai, female cheetah," 7/19/2013,; Smithsonian blog, 7/19/2013,
  • Smithsonian's National Zoo Mourns Female Cheetah Tumai Contributed Four Cubs to Her Species' Survival July 19, 2013, Smithsonian Newsdesk,

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


November 23, 2004


  • Acinonyx
  • Carnivores
  • Cats
  • Animals
  • Zoos
  • Endangered ecosystems
  • Reproductive biology
  • Cheetahs
  • Births
  • Cheetah
  • Endangered species

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