Life Lessons from Echo, a New Cheetah Mom

What is more adorable than a cub of a cheetah, which I think is one of the Earth’s more beautiful creatures? Some of the good news, among the many sad things being reported, is that yesterday, April 8, a cheetah named Echo at the National Zoo (at their Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia) gave birth to four healthy cheetah cubs. You can see Echo and her cubs during the live web feed at: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/cheetah-cub-cam

I was watching Echo and babies today and saw the following sequence. At first, Echo was lying down on her side, allowing her cubs to nurse. After a while, she disengaged from her cubs by standing up. She went through a thorough process of licking each one of them, taking her time with each one. Then she turned her back towards them and curled up on the floor with her legs tucked in, preventing them from accessing their food supply. At first they squeaked their little baby squeaks, but then they all settled down by her back and became silent. From the camera, you can’t see them or hear them, but my assumption was that they fell asleep. Echo then spent some time cleaning herself before setting herself into a posture similar to the ancient Greek mythological creature, the sphinx. It’s a great power position. Good for you, Echo!

This was a very gratifying 15 minutes for me today. It reminded me of several important truths during this pandemic:

1. Life goes on. There is new life, even among death and illness.
2. We need to take care of others who depend upon us.
3. However, that does not mean just doing everything they want as they might think they want it in that moment.
4. We also need to set boundaries and take care of ourselves. Otherwise, we can’t help to take care of anyone else.

Animals can be such great teachers–if we respect and listen to them. These were all things that I know, but could use some reminders about, as I negotiate these times of more intense “togetherness” with my immediate family. I love them unconditionally, but on the practical/physical level, sometimes I have some boundary issues. So thanks, Echo, for inspiring me to take time for my own needs without guilt. I’m imagining I’m not the only one who needs that encouragement…

Even if you aren’t looking for life lessons, the Smithsonian’s animal webcams are great distractions from our human concerns. Besides the cheetahs, you can see the animals from elephant, lions, and OF COURSE PANDAS to the naked mole-rat at: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams.


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