The cheetah cub looked supremely irritated as the animal biologist put it down on a soft black cloth to have its portrait taken. It recoiled, hissed and bared its teeth at Washington Post photographer Matt McClain, who had prepared the outdoor backdrop at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in rural Virginia this month.

As the photographer moved in with his camera, the seven-pound carnivore, born Oct. 16, reared up and spat. McClain jumped, but continued taking pictures. And over the course of a 20-minute session he captured the majestic cub in the photo presented here. It is one in series of portraits McClain set out to make of animals born this year at the Smithsonian’s conservation biology institute and the National Zoo.

Of course, the zoo’s giant panda cub, Bei Bei, born Aug. 22, was the most famous. This week, TV cameras and photographers swarmed around the cub during its four-day media debut in the giant panda house.

But overlooked amid the arrival of Bei Bei was the advent of, among other creatures, a long-whiskered, long-tailed porcupine named Charlotte. Her premature birth on Oct. 5 was attended by problems, and she needed a feeding tube, for a time, to be kept alive. She’s fine now, and portrayed here. Her keeper says her giant nose feels like a marshmallow.

Last spring came the lively red pandas Lizzie, Smitty and Hoppy, whose mother had terminal bone cancer and was euthanized days after they were born. The cubs were bottle-fed by keepers. Shown here is the Lizzie.

There were also spider tortoise twins and a false water cobra, which has fangs in the back of its mouth. It has to chew on its victim to inject its venom, which can be painful to people but not usually fatal.

Tiny Madagascar hedgehogs called Tenrecs were born Aug. 31. Harmless-looking, they kept gnawing on the fingers of zoo biologist Kenton Kerns, who brought them out to be photographed.

Hatched on Aug. 8 was an aggressive but critically endangered Cuban crocodile, a predator in miniature with with big green eyes and a mouth full of translucent teeth. Cuban crocs are among the most ferocious of  crocodiles. The baby is being fed bugs, for now. Later it will get rabbits, mice or rats.

And April brought a somber -looking New Caledonia giant gecko, which could reach a foot in length when full grown, which is  huge as geckos go. In the wild, these geckos live in trees on islands in the Southwest Pacific. They are known to bark to ward off danger. “Each animal that’s born has its own story,” said Paul Marinari, a senior curator at the biology institute. And most unfold outside the zoo’s giant panda house.

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