Smithsonian's National Zoo debuts cheetah cubs

(Photo: Smithsonian's National Zoo/flickr)

Two cheetah cubs that had a rocky entrance into the world made their public debut at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

It didn't take long for the cubs to get the lay of the land.

Tourist Mary Lowe exclaimed, " Oh they are very cute! On a hot day, bless their hearts. They probably want to be inside where it's cool."

But, a couple dozen people appreciated the cub's fresh enthusiasm for the outdoors, watching the brother and sister frolic in the cheetah enclosure.

The 3-month-old cubs are healthy today thanks to the work of zoo staffers and veterinarians. When they were born, their mother abandoned the male cub.

"When she first gave birth, she was scared of the cub, and she didn't know what was going on," National Zoo Cheetah Keeper Lacey Braun explained. ",,,sometimes first time mothers do reject their cub."

Sensing something was wrong the team of veterinarians checked out the mother and quickly performed a Cesarian section. Three other cubs were delivered, but two died.

It is rare for a newborn cheetah to survive a Cesarian, but the female cub pulled through.

Scientists say every surviving cub is critical to sustaining the species, which is threatened with extinction in the wild.

These new cubs are genetically valuable because their mother and father were first-time parents.

The cubs were born in late April.

Since cheetahs are the fastest animals on land, the zoo says the duo will be named after the fastest U.S. man and woman in the 100 meter dash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.