Adorable cheetah cubs born

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian

Five cheetah cubs were born last month at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., becoming the only litter born this year in North America.

The cubs were born to 6-year-old Amani. This is the second litter born to Amani, who in 2010 gave birth to a male cub.

"We are very excited that Amani had such a large litter of cubs this time," said Adrienne Crosier, SCBI cheetah biologist. "These cubs are very significant for the future of the population, and each birth gives us an opportunity to learn more about cheetah biology and how females raise their young."

The Front Royal institute currently houses seven cheetahs and plans to raise the five cubs in other facilities in North America.

Cheetah cubs have a 20 percent mortality rate in the first six months when raised in captivity. They have a 70 percent mortality rate when born in the wild in east Africa.

Click here to see a video of the cheetahs.

From the institute: Cheetahs, the fastest animals on land, are struggling to outpace threats to their survival in the wild. As the result of human conflict, hunting and habitat 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 a vulnerable species.