CHESTERFIELD (WRIC) - Everyone's been talking about and thousands are watching the new baby cheetahs grow on the Metro Richmond Zoo's webcam.
8News senior reporter Nate Eaton got unprecedented access inside the cheetah enclosure, where the cubs play every day.
The cubs and their mom Lana have become stars on the cheetah cam and for good reason; they're only the third liter both in captivity in America this year.
Metro Richmond Zoo Director Jim Andelin got the idea to breed cheetahs about a year ago.
He put up fences, built this compound, and brought in seven cats.
"Cheetahs are extremely hard to breed and the fact that five babies came from this last liter is pretty impressive," he says. "The most successful breeding has been done when facilities have more space for their cats."
And space they have - four acres to roam, play, and explore.
For now, the cubs are kept together.
They only eat their mother's milk and always near her, but as they grow up, the males will be moved away from the females.
Because, unlike other cats, cheetahs won't breed if they know their partner.
"The males are separated and they have a visual barrier so they can't see the females."
The big cats are just as stunning as the babies. To prove it, Jim takes Nate inside Keeto and Haitari's enclosure.
They walk in, holding big sticks in case something happens. It's hard to believe these big guys were once this small.
And as the little ones quickly grow, the plan is to grow their cheetah family too with the zoo possibly becoming the most successful cheetah breeding facility in America.
"We'd like to breed as many as we can but getting two to three liters a year would be tremendous."
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