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Your morning adorable: The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's two cheetah cubs are better than one

February 17, 2011 | 12:02 pm

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Staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia have found a creative way to make sure two cheetah cubs born there in December have an upbringing that's as close as possible to what they would have in the wild.

The institute, which is associated with the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is a participant in a conservation breeding program to help the cheetah species survive. Two different cheetah mothers, Amani and Zazi, gave birth to cubs about a week and a half apart.

But there was one problem: Each mother gave birth to only one cub. Cheetah mothers typically have litters of three or four cubs; "singletons" are a rarity. For reasons not entirely clear, mothers are unable to properly care for only one cub. "The theory is that one cub does not stimulate the mother enough to keep producing milk," head cheetah keeper Lacey Braun wrote on the National Zoo's website.

Keepers decided to take Amani's cub, a male, from her in order to hand-raise him. When Zazi's single female cub was born later in the month, an idea was hatched: Why not let Zazi raise the two cubs together as siblings? Zazi took to being the mother of "twins" just fine, and the cubs are energetic and healthy. They had their first trip outside last week, and the institute recently launched a live webcam to allow cheetah fans to watch the cubs' antics online.

See more photos of the cubs after the jump!

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RELATED CUTE ZOO BABIES:
Your morning adorable: Month-old lion cubs mug for the camera at Russian zoo
Your morning adorable: Young ocelots make their debut at the Berlin Zoo

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photos: Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press

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