Round-the-clock feedings are part of a day's work for Nadine Hall as she hand-raises several precious cheetah cubs.
"You become a zombie, but somehow get through it," said Hall, who is an animal curator featured in "Growing Up Cheetah," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on cable's Animal Planet.
Still, she said, "the hardest part is giving them up. They are the most loving animals you can ever get to know. They are all very individual and they melt your heart when they purr."
The show tracks Hall as she cares for three newborn male cubs -- Corban, Kane and Kieran -- and a month-older female, Kayla. Viewers get to watch Hall become a surrogate mother who lovingly bottle-feeds the litter. They also see the cubs interact with the Hall family dog, Lisha, who helps raise them; the cheetahs' first forays into the great outdoors; and their encounter with a pet pot-bellied pig.
"Cheetah" is the first of a new "Growing Up" series about animals under human care. Some of the animals are endangered species in special breeding programs, while others have been orphaned or abandoned.
Rob Hall, Nadine's husband, is operational director of the Cango Wildlife Ranch in South Africa, where "Growing Up Cheetah" was filmed. One of his roles is to help place the animals at other parks that need new bloodlines to diversify the genetic pool.
A strength of the show, he said, is that "it didn't just deal with the cute and cuddly aspect of the cubs but it also brought out the reality of what's happening in the wild."
Alexandra Bennett, executive producer of the series, said people such as the Halls are central to the series.
"These people put their lives on hold to take care of these animals," she said. "It's a difficult and challenging job that they are doing, and often very dangerous. These are dangerous wild animals -- not pets at all. Not everyone could do this."
Bennett also was executive producer of two "Growing Up Grizzly" specials. The first, hosted by Brad Pitt, aired in August 2001, and "Growing Up Grizzly 2," featuring Jennifer Aniston, premiered in January.
After the first
"Grizzly," Bennett said, "we started to develop this theory that there are all these beautiful animals that have these stories to be told."
For example, she said, "Growing Up Zebra," charts a zebra's health problems, and "you see the twists and turns to save the life of this zebra."
"Growing Up Marsupial" shows how three humans -- equipped with pouches like the animals they're trying to emulate -- parent a spotted tail Quoll, a Tasmanian devil and a wombat.
"Growing Up Wolf" tracks the challenge of hand-raising six wolf pups, then introducing them to their pack.
Episodes are filmed all over the world and typically show the first year of the animals' lives, she said. It takes about 60 to 80 hours of filming -- with up to 10 trips to locations such as Australia, Africa, Minnesota and Arkansas -- for each hour-long program.
The series also touches on the survival of the species. In "Growing Up Cheetah," for instance, the program says that 100 years ago, about 100,000 cheetahs lived throughout Africa and Asia, while today there are less than 9,000 worldwide.
There is a conservation message in the programs, Bennett said. "A show like this creates awareness about these animals. It makes people aware that the Earth would be a much sadder place without these animals if they go from endangered to extinct."
Coming Up on 'Growing Up'
Episodes in the series airing on Mondays at 8 p.m. on Animal Planet:
* "Cheetah" on July 12.
* "Marsupial" on July 19.
* "Elephant" on July 26.
* "Wolf" on Aug. 2.
* "Clouded Leopard" on Aug. 9.
* "Zebra" on Aug. 16.
* "Baboon" on Aug. 30.
* "Black Bear" on Sept. 6.
* "Orangutan" on Sept. 13.
* "Rhino" on Sept. 20.
On the Web
Join Rob Hall and Alexandra Bennett for an online chat on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at: www.