Captivating Cheetahs: OKC Zoo Celebrates Cheetahs

In honor of International Cheetah Day on December 4, we’re celebrating our newest animal family members, cheetah brothers Boomer and Pistol “Pete”! Boomer and Pete arrived at the OKC Zoo’s new Predator Pass habitat from Little Rock Zoo in Little Rock, Arkansas, over a month ago. The five-year-old brothers were born at Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Since joining the Zoo’s animal family, their caretakers have noticed some key differences in their “purr-sonalities”. For example, Boomer is typically the grumpier brother, while Pete has “go-with-the-flow” type tendencies.  Both brothers are extremely intelligent and are working toward learning husbandry behaviors that will encourage them to participate in their own healthcare, and help them to establish a working relationship with their caretakers. Their favorite food items are chunk meat and rabbit, and they like the smell of Axe body spray, a favorite scent enrichment.

Did you know that cheetahs are the fastest land mammals in the world? They can sprint up to 80 mph! Cheetahs have five adaptations that enable their need for speed. They have semi-retractable claws that allow them to dig into the dirt and have traction when running. Their muscular tail acts as a rudder to help them maintain balance when turning at high speeds. In addition to this, the black markings on their face act as a shield to help reflect the sun. Cheetahs also evolved to have enlarged hearts and lungs that help them to take in more oxygen while running. Lastly, their lightweight body structure is made for speed, enabling them to accelerate to faster speeds.

Cheetahs in the wild are facing many dangers. Human wildlife conflict, as well as habitat loss, are the primary threats to cheetahs. Human communities that share cheetahs’ range fear losing their livestock to cheetahs on the hunt. Various programs are in place to provide these communities resources to both protect their livestock and conserve native cheetah populations. One of those programs is a livestock guarding dog program, led by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a conservation partner of the Zoo. Farmers learn how to care for and raise Anatolian shepherds who bond with the livestock as puppies and protect them as adults. Another challenge facing cheetahs is habitat loss. Unfortunately, cheetahs struggle to thrive on protected lands because of competition for prey with other large cats. This means they rely heavily on unprotected marginal habitat, which is disappearing at a rapid rate.

The Zoo is assisting cheetahs in the wild by supporting three cheetah conservation organizations, Cheetah Conservation Fund, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, and the Ruaha Carnivore Project. This year the Zoo raised $15,000 through Round Up for Conservation, a grassroots initiative that encourages Zoo guests to “round up” when making purchases at the Zoo. The Zoo also partnered with the Oklahoma Zoological Society (OZS) and CCF to host Cheers for Cheetahs on October 19, 2021, a fundraiser for cheetah conservation, which raised more than $15,000. The Zoo is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Cheetah SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction program. This program is a collaborative effort among various professionals throughout AZA and nonprofit communities to help save cheetahs from extinction.

Celebrate International Cheetah Day at the Zoo, and “spot” our cheetah brothers, Boomer and Pistol Pete. The Zoo’s carnivore care team will be hosting special caretaker chats at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at Predator Pass on Saturday, December 4, in honor of this special awareness day.

- Katie, senior carnivore caretaker

 

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