NOTE: Animal Ark is accredited by the Amercian Sanctuary Association.
BY BILL O’DRISCOLL – firstname.lastname@example.org – October 20, 2008
Before about 100 people Sunday afternoon at the Animal Ark wildlife sanctuary north of Stead, the cheetahs got their chance, stretching their sinewy limbs, kicking up dirt and dust and wowing their audience as if they were back home in Africa.
“They want to run in the worst way,” Animal Ark co-founder Aaron Hiibel said before his staff turned the wild cats loose after an electrically driven lure that reached speeds of 58 mph over a 200-yard course. “They don’t live well in captivity unless they’re running high-speed,”
It was the final cheetah dash of the season at the 38-acre, nonprofit sanctuary that closes for the winter Nov. 2. Hiibel primed the crowd with some fast-cat facts:
As the world’s swiftest land animal, cheetahs can reach speeds up to 70 mph and hit
45 mph in just three strides.
At full bore, they can cover 22 feet in one stride alone.
And if it moves, they’re on it like a laser.
Jamar, a 2-year-old male cheetah, was up first and off like a bullet after the length of yellow tape connected to a wire coursing erratically along the ground.
Five seconds later, Jamar skidded, dirt flying, into the end and in typical feline fashion quickly got to his feet where his trainers offered him chunks of stew meat as they calmly applied a leash.
Jamar then got a return chase back to the start before another helping of meat and then back to his pen.
Next up was Zulu, an 11-year-old female — “One of our divas,” Hiibel said — and the leanest of the three cheetahs.
Given her age, her moment in the arena was short, racing just one time. But she enamored the crowd with her low, rumbling purr as she posed for cameras before returning to her pen.
Then came Moyo, 2-year-old brother of Jamar but more stout and striding up to the start like the cheetah in charge.
In an eyeblink, he was at full sprint, close behind but seeming to toy with the tape before a baseball-like slide at the end, a quick regain of his footing and a heaping helping of meat.
Hiibel said cheetahs typically weigh less than other wild cats, reaching 130 pounds at most.
“It’s all about speed,” he said as Moyo was led away. “He’s the Ferrari of the animal kingdom, not the truck.”
Those in the audience were impressed by the performance of these cats brought to the U.S., Hiibel said, as “ambassadors of the cheetah world.”
“Pretty slick,” said Lane Buxton, visiting from Sacramento. “They look like they want more. That last one (Moyo) was ready for another go-round.”
Added Alice Graves of Reno, “Fantastic. I’m a cat lover. Just fantastic.”
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at https://bigcatrescue.org
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