Everyone knows that December is a month full of special days.
But did you know that December 4 is actually one to celebrate?
Why? Well, it’s International Cheetah Day, of course! (You didn’t know that?!)
This is a day to acknowledge the unique intrinsic worth of the cheetah–an endangered and very special animal.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know the Zoo’s five cheetahs over the past four months.
First, there’s Shanto, the old man of the group. He is twelve years old and he is one big, tough cheetah. He has a little hitch in his walk, which just makes him that much more badass. If Shanto were in The Lion King he would be Mufasa. If he had a human voice, it would be James Earle Jones.
Then there are Shanto’s (now 7 year old!) cubs–Zuri and Kgosi. Zuri is the spunky one. She is mischievous, curious and, quite frankly, a flirt. That cat has some moxie. Her favorite past time is eating and Zuri has the roundest cheetah belly I’ve ever seen. Kgosi is the cutie pie of the bunch. He has an adorable face and ears that kind of stick out sideways on his head, which only help his cause. Kgosi is a very sweet cheetah, whom everyone loves.
Next, there’s Jason. Jason is the Disney prince of cheetahs. He is just so handsome and dapper all of the time. Quite the charming cheetah. And finally, Jason’s girlfriend,Claire. Claire is the newcomer of the group, just arriving in June. She is the princess. Claire is a beautiful, intelligent cheetah, with sharp wits and enough tough stuff to hang with any of the guys.
Cheetahs are having a bit of trouble in the wild. There are around 10,000 wild cheetahs left in the world, which might sound like a lot, until you take a moment to consider that 100 years ago there were 100,000 cheetahs! Talk about a rapid decline!
Some consider them a doomed species. A lack of genetic diversity only adds to the laundry list of troubles cheetah populations already face (i.e habitat destruction, human/predator conflict).
But we cannot give up on this amazing creature. Usain Bolt holds the world record for the 100 meter dash. He can run it in 9.58 seconds (fast!). Sarah, a cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo, recently ran the same distance in 5.95 seconds (whoa!!).
Every species is important, of course, but any animal alive on this planet that can reach speeds up to 70 mph, powered by only their own four feet, is one worth puling out all the stops to save in my book!
Every morning, when I am feeding the cheetahs, there is a special moment when I am shifting them back into their yards. The cheetahs run past me, only inches from my legs. They move and run with such enviable grace. It’s exhilarating to watch. That moment when the cheetah flies past me is hands down the most amazing part of my daily life at this point in time.
So, we cannot give up on the cheetah. Everyone must do their part. We can start by learning all about these incredible creatures.
Tomorrow the Zoo is having a party for International Cheetah Day. There will be keeper chats, crafts and cookies and Zuri will (hopefully!) be showing off her running talent.
Learn what you can about cheetahs. Love cheetahs. And certainly don’t give up on cheetahs.
And don’t forget to celebrate on December 4!