Cheetah cubs make their debut at National Zoo

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

A pair of three-month-old cheetah cubs made their inaugural appearance at Washington's National Zoo on Tuesday.

As part of their public debut, the Smithsonian announced it will hold a contest to name the cheetah brothers. Zoo officials say they use the cheetah's tails to separate them, noting that a cheetah's tail is similar to a person's fingerprints, with unique identifying characteristics.

The pair is considered invaluable to zoo officials hoping to increase the numbers of the endangered species. The cheetah cubs are part of a larger breeding program by the National Zoo that has resulted in 17 animals across several different species being born or hatched since 2010.

Fox DC reports that the cubs have already defied the odds of surviving a difficult birth during which zoo veterinarians performed an emergency cesarean section to save them.

The National Zoo works with other zoos around the country as part of a nationwide effort to boost the cheetah population. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 cheetahs live in the wild today.