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Your morning adorable: Cheetah cubs make their debut at Switzerland's Basel Zoo

September 10, 2009 | 11:06 am

Cheetah cub

Three cheetah cubs, born June 17 to 10-year-old mother Msichana, made their public debut this week at Switzerland's Basel Zoo. Cheetah mothers are very hands-on (paws-on?) parents; in the wild, cubs stay with their mothers for 18 months to two years. During much of that time, the cubs are practicing their hunting skills. As adults, they'll be extremely skilled hunters -- not just due to their legendary speed, but also because of their remarkable eyesight.

Cheetahs are an endangered species -- an estimated 12,000 remain in the grasslands of Africa, with a tiny population living in the wild in Iran -- so the birth of three healthy cubs is great news indeed.

The Basel Zoo is enjoying great publicity for its burgeoning cheetah family (and a pretty adorable western gray kangaroo joey), but earlier this year it was receiving publicity of a very different kind. The people of Switzerland were outraged when reports surfaced that the zoo would consider killing its male baby hippopotamus, Farasi -- who was so popular in the country that he was named "Swiss of the Year" in 2008 -- if it couldn't find a home for him at another zoo before he reached maturity. (Male hippos are intensely territorial, so the zoo's hippo habitat is big enough for only one adult male, and Farasi's father had seniority.)  Fortunately, the story had a happy ending: The zoo later announced that it planned to keep Farasi until a home could be found for him elsewhere.

More photos of the cubs after the jump!

Cheetah cub

Cheetah cub

Cheetah cub

Cheetah cub

Cheetah cub

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo credits: First, fourth, fifth and sixth photos, Georgios Kefalas / Associated Press; second and third photos, Georgios Kefalas / European Pressphoto Agency 

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