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Seven cheetah cubs make their UK debut

The biggest ever litter of Northern cheetah cubs to be born in the UK has made their debut at ZSL Whipsnade.

One of seven cheetah cubs born in March 2012 at Whipsnade Zoo plays with its mother Dubai Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The seven cubs are mother Dubai's second litter, her first two years ago were the first litter of Northern cheetahs born in the UK. Her first litter contained five cubs, which is usually considered large, but is nothing on the seven cubs in the latest group.

One of seven cheetah cubs born in March 2012 at Whipsnade Zoo plays with its mother Dubai Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

At 12-weeks-old the playful youngsters are just beginning to develop their own personalities, with keepers spotting them climbing on rocks and chasing each other in the summer sunshine, becoming more adventurous by the day.

Northern cheetah cubs, from a litter of seven, born in March 2012 at Whipsnade Zoo Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Senior keeper Marie Brown said:

All seven are extremely playful but mums very patient with them all and is doing a great job of bringing them up.

Northern cheetah cubs, from a litter of seven, born in March 2012 at Whipsnade Zoo Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Cheetah cubs are born with long, grey fur. This helps them to camouflage with their surroundings, as well as resembling the markings of the formidable honey badger, which may help to deter predators.

When they are fully grown they will be able to reach speeds of up to 100km per hour (70mph) and will be the world's fastest land mammal. However, cheetahs can only run at their prey for relatively short distances, so prefer to creep up on and then spring into action.

One of seven cheetah cubs born in March 2012 at Whipsnade Zoo lays with its mother Dubai Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The cubs have spent their first weeks tucked up behind the scenes with mum Dubai but have made their public debut in the Zoos Cheetah Rock enclosure.

A Northern cheetah cub, from a litter of seven, born in March 2012 at Whipsnade Zoo Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Cheetah conservation has been a major focus for ZSL since 1991. In Tanzania we have been carrying out the longest running in depth study of a wild cheetah population.

A litter of seven cheetah cubs born in March 2012 at Whipsnade Zoo Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire