Cheetah are large spotted cats from the dry forests and savannahs of northern, eastern, and southern regions of Africa as well as a small population in Iran. Cheetah are the fastest land mammals, running up to 70 miles per hour in short bursts. Unlike many other cat species, cheetah are diurnal (active during the day) and hunt for prey items such as gazelles and other antelopes. Cheetah are all very similar genetically due to a prolonged period of inbreeding due to low population numbers following the last ice age approximately 10,000 years ago.
Male cheetah are typically larger than females, and every cheetah has its own unique pattern of spots. The claws of cheetah are semi-retractable and poorly curved and resemble a cross between the claws of large cats and wolves. This adaptation serves a greater function for running as opposed to climbing. The cheetah is the only large cat that is incapable of roaring due to the anatomy of the voice box (larynx) in this species.
The cheetah has become vulnerable in the wild with populations only numbering approximately 6,500 individuals remaining in the wild due to hunting for its fur, habitat loss due to agricultural expansion, persecution by farmers worried that cheetah will eat their livestock, and vehicle collisions. The Good Zoo participates in the cheetah Species Survival Plan breeding program with other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions to ensure a sustainable population of this rare species in human care. The cheetah is considered a S.A.F.E. (Saving Animals From Extinction) program species by the AZA. To learn about some of the S.A.F.E. cheetah conservation projects, visit the AZA web site.
We care for two male cheetah at the zoo named Andiamo and Frankie. We feed the cheetah a special meat-based zoo carnivore diet as well as weekly beef knuckle bones for dental health. The cheetah enjoy foraging for their diet in boxes, papier mache animals, and in bags. They also enjoy boomer balls, thawed frozen rabbits, and new logs for sharpening their claws.