Two Cheetah cubs involved in a dramatic delivery at Washington's National Zoo six weeks ago have been given a clean bill of health.
The pair were the only cubs to survive the traumatic delivery which saw zoo veterinarians perform CPR on the newborns for hours using thumbs and fingers.
The Smithsonian National Zoo medical team removed four cubs by Caesarean section after the first-time mother cheetah earlier delivered a male cub in an enclosure. Zoo workers stepped in when she abandoned the cub.
The surviving cubs and their mother were in intensive care for several days after the birth and the cubs' father was brought to the veterinary hospital to donate plasma to the cubs to boost their immune systems.
"There are now two new genetically valuable cubs in a population that so desperately needs them," a zoo spokeswoman said. "So this is really a success for this struggling species."
Staff are hand-raising both cubs, which requires bottle feeding every few hours.
Tony Barthel, curator of the Zoo's Cheetah Conservation Station, said: "The cubs will continue to need care and we're not out of the woods yet. The goal is to ensure that the cheetahs thrive and become ambassadors for their species."
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.