Every year, December 4th is a day that zoos and conservation organizations around the world celebrate the fastest land mammal on Earth and highlight the efforts going into saving them. While there is only one official day for this on the calendar, the Cincinnati Zoo celebrates cheetah conservation throughout the year in many different ways.
One way that the Zoo does this is through our Cat Ambassador Program. Cheetah ambassadors, like our much-loved Donni, help us educate visitors and schoolchildren about the species here at the Zoo during Cheetah Encounters and at local schools during assembly programs. Not only does this program help foster connections between people and cheetahs; it also helps raise money for wild cheetahs through the Angel Fund.
Named after Cincinnati’s first cheetah ambassador, the Angel Fund has raised over $1 million to support a variety of cheetah conservation projects around the world. One of these programs is Cheetah Outreach. This community-based education program in South Africa offers school presentations with ambassador cheetahs, as well as teacher workshops, to help build understanding of how people and animals can coexist. This organization also breeds Anatolian shepherd dogs and gives them to farmers to guard their livestock. Their bark is often enough to deter cheetahs from attacking the livestock, helping to reduce conflict between farmers and predators.
Another program the Zoo supports is the Ruaha Carnivore Project. This organization works with local communities in Tanzania to help develop effective conservation strategies for large carnivores, including cheetahs. By using targeted research, mentorship within the community, training, and outreach, they involve the community in their conservation efforts to ensure long-term success.
Beyond providing financial support, we also work hands-on in the field as well. We work with Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia by partnering with Miami University to lead a Global Field Program graduate course. Each summer, we take 20 graduate students, many of whom are educators, to explore inquiry-based learning and engage in cheetah conservation work at the CCF headquarters in Namibia. These students have a very unique and hands-on learning experience while participating in important conservation work.
Closer to home, the Zoo supports cheetah conservation at our off-site Cheetah Breeding Facility in Clermont County. We are one of nine AZA-accredited institutions that participate in a cheetah Breeding Center Coalition, a program that works closely with the Cheetah Species Survival Plan to ensure there is a sustainable cheetah population in human care in order to prevent the species’ extinction. Since 2002, 59 cubs have been born at our Cheetah Breeding Facility.
So while a cold winter day doesn’t always make you think of a cheetah, we hope that you join us today in appreciation for this amazing species and all of the work being done to protect them. Want to help? With the holidays coming up, what better way is there to give back to cheetahs while checking off your holiday shopping list than to adopt a cheetah as a gift for that special someone through our A.D.O.P.T. program?