Today, on International Cheetah Day, we celebrate the fastest animal on land by introducing you to our ambassador cheetahs and how they help spread awareness about cheetah conservation.
Our cheetah ambassadors work with their trainers at the Cat Ambassador Program (CAP), educating more than 150,000 people a year about the importance of cheetahs and other wild cat predators. From April to October, Zoo guests can witness cheetahs running and other wild cats performing natural behaviors during Cheetah Encounter shows. During the school year, CAP staff introduces students to cheetahs and small wild cats during assembly programs.
At 14 years old, Sara is our most experienced ambassador and still enjoys running during shows. In fact, she is the “fastest cheetah in captivity” as she was clocked running 100 meters in 5.95 seconds last summer during a National Geographic photo shoot. Watch the behind-the-scenes video here.
Born at the DeWildt Breeding Center in South Africa in 2004, Bravo and Chance came to us when they were six months old. They remain a coalition here, as brother cheetahs often stick together in the wild, and are our only cheetahs housed together. They spend more time in our Africa exhibit yard than the other cheetahs.
Tommy T was born at the Zoo’s off-site Cheetah Breeding Facility in 2008 and is named after Tom Tenhundfeld, the lead keeper at the facility. He was raised with Pow Wow (the dog), and was featured in the November 2012 issue of National Geographic Magazine. He even made the cover!
Nia Faye was also born at our Breeding Facility in 2009. We affectionately call her our “wild child”. She took a lot of work, but she is a great ambassador and is rivaling Sara in speed.
Born in 2012, Savanna is our youngest ambassador. She was the cheetah featured with Zoo Director, Thane Maynard, on the Today Show to promote our partnership with National Geographic Magazine. Watch the video here.
Supporting Cheetah Conservation
In addition to spreading awareness, the CAP also collects donations for The Angel Fund to support cheetah conservation. For 12 years, Cat Ambassador Program founder Cathryn Hilker and a cheetah named Angel worked together to educate people about cheetahs. Established in Angel’s memory in 1992, The Angel Fund raises funds to support a variety of cheetah conservation projects committed to saving cheetahs both in captivity and in the wild. Over the years, the Zoo and The Angel Fund has supported and participated in many cheetah conservation field projects, including but not limited to the following programs.
- Cheetah Outreach is a community-based education program based in South Africa that conducts school presentations with ambassador cheetahs as well as teacher workshops. Cheetah Outreach also breeds Anatolian shepherd dogs and places them on South African farms to guard livestock in an effort to reduce conflict between farmers and predators.
- The Ruaha Carnivore Project works with local communities to help develop effective conservation strategies for large carnivores in Tanzania. The mission is being achieved through targeted research and monitoring, mitigation of threats, mentorship, training and community outreach.
- Cheetah Conservation Botswana aims to preserve the nation’s cheetah population through scientific research, community outreach and education, working with rural communities to promote coexistence with Botswana’s rich diversity of predator species.
A Leader in Cheetah Breeding
With inspiration and support from The Angel Fund, the Zoo also has become a leader in captive cheetah breeding. Since 2002, 41 cubs have been produced at the Zoo’s off-site Cheetah Breeding Facility in Clermont County. The Zoo is one of nine AZA-accredited institutions that participate in a cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC). Working closely with the Cheetah Species Survival Plan, the BCC’s goal is to create a sustainable cheetah population that will prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal.
You Can Help
Want to help us save cheetahs? Consider donating to The Angel Fund!
December 4, 2014 1 Comment
Learn about cheetahs, red pandas and tigers from our 6th – 8th grade Working with Wildlife Summer Campers!
June 18, 2014 1 Comment
Guest blogger: Zoo Academy student, Keri Cross
Hello everyone! My name is Keri Cross, and I am a Zoo Academy senior!!!!!! I started attending the Zoo Academy last year, and the experience has been absolutely AMAZING!!!!!! I have evolved a lot since I first started attending the Zoo Academy, and the journey has been very impactful for me. I have met so many nice people here at the Zoo, and the keepers are the funniest people I have ever been around. They are always in good high spirits, and they keep me wanting to come back and help them the best I can.
As far as picking which department is my favorite, I really don’t have a favorite area. Every area I have worked in has something great about it, and it makes it hard to pick which one would be my absolute favorite. I have picked up skills from each lab, which I carry throughout not only the future labs, but also in my personal life as well.
My favorite animal that I have worked with has actually been the screaming hairy armadillo. They are one of the cutest animals I have seen since I’ve been at the Zoo. Bonnie, which is one of the screaming hairy armadillos, is actually my favorite. She lets me pick her up and hold her. She has made working with the screaming hairy armadillos a real pleasure. The screaming hairy armadillos are used to educate the public about the species. The Zoo usually socializes them, so they are use to human contact, but they really wouldn’t make good pets in someone’s home. The reason is mainly because they are pretty messy, and they are wild animals. The screaming hairy armadillo usually lives in desert, grassland, scrubland, and forest areas. Their diet includes plants and tasty bugs. They have an excellent sense of smell, and they are amazing diggers, too. Usually when it’s very hot, the screaming hairy armadillos dig burrows, which measure up to several meters in length, so that they can be protected from those hot, sunny days. Surprisingly, in the winter, they are very active during the day. Want to know an interesting fact???? Baby armadillos are called “pups”. A female is called a “zed” and the male is a “lister”.
My favorite animal overall would have to be the cheetah. The cheetah is one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. They have interesting patterns on their back, and they have big, beautiful brown eyes. Cheetahs usually come from the plains of Africa, wandering the savannas. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on the planet!!!!!!!! With their extremely fast speed and good eyesight, they are able to spot their prey and immediately catch it. They are actually a species that is endangered right now. At this point, dedicated people are working hard to try to restore these beautiful creatures in the wild.
One experience from the Zoo so far that has been my absolute favorite has been actually being able to work with the reptiles. Reptiles are some of my absolute favorite animals, and I have been able to handle different types of reptiles. Crystal, a ball python, has actually been my favorite snake to handle. She comes from Africa. Her scientific name is Python regius, and she belongs to the python family. Ball pythons are also called royal pythons, and they are actually the calmest snakes that I have ever worked with.
With my experience so far this year, I’ve realized that this journey has been absolutely amazing. I take classes actually at the Zoo, which is pretty amazing, so I get to come to the Zoo every day, and work with the different types of animals. I’ve met a lot of great people who want to see me do great things in the future, especially with helping animals. My desire in life is to help animals, and I feel like I’m doing that every day I come to the different areas in the Zoo. My job right now may not be that much, but it all goes a long way in the end. I’m glad that I chose the Zoo Academy because I feel like I’m doing something that will stick with me forever. This experience will help lead me to bigger and better things in the future.
October 10, 2013 16 Comments