where do the cheetahs go?
Dear Cara Pallone,
I am sorry that your story didn't cover the entire picture. It was
like having to leave in the middle of the film. Where do all those
We know that none of them here in the US ever go free, so the only
options would be zoos and private collectors. Even the facilities in
range countries sell their cubs to zoos and private collectors, like
Judy Berens who was just mauled by her two pet cheetahs. You didn't
mention the size of the cages, but the cheetah can run 300 yards at 70
MPH and I doubt that more than a handful of cheetahs in captivity have
You also didn't mention how short their lifespan is and that they
often die an agonizing death due to stomach ulcerations caused by the
stress of being kept captive.
Big cats were meant to run free and it is sad that we are not
protecting them in the wild, but breeding them for lives of
confinement and deprivation is inhumane and a practice that more and
more people are finding unacceptable.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:
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CARA PALLONE, email@example.com
April 1, 2008
On any given day, Becca McCloskey, 29, the supervisor of the cheetah
breeding program at Wildlife Safari, and Dana Hunter, 24, cheetah
ranger, might get a call from a rancher who has a lame or sick horse.
The two pretty, petite girls head to the location. They shoot the
horse, haul the animal back to the park, skin it, quarter it, cut it
up and feed the meat to the cats.
"It's not the best part of my day," said McCloskey. "But our
philosophy is our cheetahs can't hunt for themselves. It's a moment
of my discomfort versus their health … it's no contest."
Long before McCloskey or Hunter started working at the park, a woman
named Laurie Marker preceded them in Wildlife Safari's pursuit and
dedication to breed the endangered animals. Marker is now the
executive director for the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a $1 million-
per-year nonprofit foundation. She was featured in the March issue of
Marker currently lives in Namibia and has committed her life to
wildlife conservation. However, 34 years ago, the cheetah guru
developed her love for the sleek animals at Wildlife Safari.
According to the story in the Smithsonian, "the sum total of what was
then known about cheetahs at Wildlife Safari was that they were
fascinating, standoffish and virtually impossible to breed."
McCloskey said through a Cheetah Conservation Fund internship, she
traveled to Namibia for three months.
"That's when I first came into contact with her," McCloskey said of
They talked about Oregon some, but for the most part, the topic of
conversation was focused on cheetahs.
"She expects a lot from people and that's why she gets a lot from
people," said McCloskey.
When McCloskey started working at Wildlife Safari four years ago,
there were four cheetahs total. Currently, McCloskey and Hunter care
for 26 cheetahs, 11 of which are cubs, and two Siberian tigers. Every
day they work with Taini, the ambassador cheetah, on behaviors and
"She's a big part of the park," said McCloskey.
The girls said breeding cheetahs is an uphill battle to start. The
animals need space and a low-stress environment — but not so much
that they get bored — and require specific genetic recommendations
"You can't just breed two that like each other," said McCloskey. "We
offer her (a female cheetah) the male that fits with her. If she
wants to breed, that's her one choice."
Since 1973, the first year of the cheetah breeding program, 38
litters and 149 cheetahs have been born at Wildlife Safari, placing
the park at the top of the list of cheetah breeders in the United
States and the Western Hemisphere.
McCloskey said resources were very limited when she started working
at the park.
"There's been times when we haven't had as much capital. You have to
get really creative," she said. "We've made an entire structure
without using power tools because a mother and her cubs were nearby."
Hunter laughed and held up her hands to demonstrate the length of the
stakes they pounded into the ground with rubber mallets to avoid
"Becca built the program out of the ashes," said Dan Van Slyke,
executive director of Wildlife Safari. "It's all about the people
that have a vision as to where this park is going."
* You can reach reporter Cara Pallone at 957-4208 or by e-mail at