Three years ago, the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra celebrated the birth of a cheetah cub. The appropriately named Solo was a rare single-cub birth, as most cheetah litters range from 3 to 5 cubs. As the mothers of single cubs generally have difficulty producing milk for just one cub, Solo has been lovingly hand raised by specialist keepers and has received all the love and attention that he would normally have received from his mother and siblings.
To make up for Solo’s lack of siblings, they acquired a similarly aged puppy for Solo to play with. Zama is a cross Border Collie/Belgian Malinois, specially selected so that her collie genes give her the energy and determination to try to keep up with the fastest land animal on earth, while retaining the companionship, loyalty and intelligence of the Malinois genes. Solo and Zama have rarely been separated and have grown to thrive on each other’s company.
Over the past three years, Solo has become an ambassador for his species and through his popularity he continues to raise awareness for the plight of cheetahs in the wild. Solo and Zama have become icons for the National Zoo & Aquarium and Jamala Wildlife Lodge with visitors and guests able to book a hands-on encounter with them or explore the undeveloped part of the zoo with the duo on their daily walk with keepers through the pine forest.
With less than 6,500 cheetahs left in the wild, the cheetah is Africa’s most endangered big cat which face significant threats to their ongoing survival. The National Zoo & Aquarium contributes heavily to a large number of breeding programs, including a regional breeding program for cheetahs, that can help save a number of animals from extinction. The National Zoo & Aquarium also donates to a number of local and overseas conservation initiatives and charities to assist in the continuation of species.