Dora was an amazing first-time Mom. Six is quite a large litter for an Arctic wolf and there were times when she looked so impossibly thin I didn’t know how she was going to survive until the cubs weaned. But survive she did, and a good portion of that credit goes to her sister, Auntie Vera.
The best guess anyone has is that the cubs were born on May 10, judging from when Dora was last seen (May 6) and when she reappeared for some food (May 11). And while everyone headed for the clearly dug-out den at the northwest corner of the enclosure –a fence was set up to keep giddy visitors a little farther from the “den” – my first glimpse of the new Mama (pictured here at right) came in an entirely different area of the domain.
Cheetahs have a gestation period of 90-95 days; the earliest Laini could have cleared quarantine was January 22nd; and on April 30th, she presented her delighted Keepers with five tiny, adorable floofballs, just 98 days after she was introduced to her potential baby daddies.
The very first glimpse I got of the babies was actually a fluke. The brand-new Wildlife Health Centre was being prepared to be open to the public on the Canada Day weekend last summer, and before that happened there were preview days – first for Staff and Volunteers, then two days for Members leading into the weekend.
Her name. Well, because she was born on November 11th, which is Remembrance Day here in Canada, the vets and techs in the Health Centre gave her a nickname they thought appropriate for the date. And, unlike with the nicknames that had been given to her older brothers, the Zoo decided that this time there would be no naming contest and just went ahead and made her name official. And that is how she came to be called…
Panpan was not buying what Er Shun was selling. He kept wriggling and squealing while she tried to contain him and force him onto a nipple to absolutely no avail. After a couple of minutes of this, Er Shun – with Panpan in her arms, upside-down, facing away from her (in other words, the worst possible nursing position), with a huge grin on his face – looked straight into my eyes and let out a huge sigh as if to say, “Kids, amirite?” Then she dropped him on his head again.