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Zoo Negara’s cheetah is one of world’s rarest; only 30 of them exist today

Zoo Negara’s cheetah is one of world’s rarest; only 30 of them exist today

Tasneem Nazari

Zoo Negara has confirmed that one of their cheetahs is a rare King Cheetah!

Picture credit: New Straits Times

Born in July last year, the Southeast African cheetah cub was the sole survivor from a litter of four. 

When he was born, his handlers sensed nothing amiss, but as he matured the Zoo Negara staff realised that Bolt was no ordinary cheetah.

Named after Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Bolt began developing a rare and unique fur pattern. 

Instead of neat spots, his cream-coloured fur featured large, blotchy black spots and wide black stripes extending from his neck all the way to his tail.

Picture credit: Flickr/Steve Jurvetson

Fur patterns such as Bolts are known to exist in only just 30 cheetahs around the world, including Bolt.

Cheetahs with this pattern are called the “King Cheetah”.

According to Zookeeper Umar Ashraf, Zoo Negara was unaware that Bolt’s mother, Tianna, was pregnant with him when she arrived on Malaysian shores in February last year.

She was sent to Malaysia as part of an animal transfer programme between Zoo Negara and a conservation centre in South Africa.

She later had six more cubs in Malaysia in June, though only two, named Flash and Dash, survived.

Tianna with her six cubs before four of them died
Picture credit: Coconuts KL

Now, Zoo Negara are waiting in anticipation to see if Flash and Dash develop signs of them being King Cheetahs too.

Picture credit: Yahoo News Singapore

“It is possible that they could end up developing the rare fur pattern.

“However, it is still too early to say.”

Umar Ashraf via New Straits Times.

King Cheetahs are one of the rarest animals in the world and mainly found in Africa.

Due to their unusual markings, King Cheetahs were once thought to be a separate species. But they’re actually exactly the same as normal cheetahs.

The markings are caused by a gene mutation that exhibits longer and softer fur compared to the typical species.

Picture credit: Miami Herald

Since the mutated gene is a recessive gene, this results in the rarity of the King Cheetah. In fact, most sources claim that the King Cheetah has only been seen a total of six times in the wild.

They have been spotted in Botswana, Zimbabwe and northern South Africa. The last confirmed wild sighting was in Kruger National Park back in 1986.

It is estimated that there are only 30 King Cheetahs in the world as of 2016.

Picture credit: New Straits Times

The King Cheetah’s biggest threat is habitat loss due to increased urbanisation and human settlement.

The increase of other predators due to the increase in number of natural parks and hunters who keep them as trophies also threaten their survival.

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