at the Indianapolis Zoo
2010, the Indianapolis Zoo opened the Cheetahs: The Race for Survival
in partnership with
The Tony Stewart Foundation exhibit in the Plains Biome. This expansive exhibit features up close
viewing of these beautiful big cats (we're talking looking straight into the
eyes of a cheetah here), multiple viewing vistas, educational signage, and a
daily Cheetah Chat in the summer featuring the Zoo's Kangal dogs - a canine
species used in Africa to protect domestic herds from cheetah predation.
This is one of the exhibits that most exemplifies the Indianapolis Zoo's
animal conservation mission.
Photo by Susan Lang
This concept helps prevent wild cheetahs from being shot and was
pioneered by Dr. Laurie Marker, co-founder and director of the
Conservation Fund in Nambia, Africa. A unique part of this exhibit is
the "Race-a Cheetah" component. For only 50-cents, young visitors can "race" an
array of LED lights set to the speed of a cheetah in full flight. All
net proceeds from Race a Cheetah support Dr. Marker's work in Namibia,
and in 2010, over $11,000 was raised that will help save wild cheetahs in
can accelerate from zero to nearly 70 miles per hour in three seconds.
Its immense nostrils let oxygen pour into its oversized lungs and heart as
it chases down its prey, breathing an astonishing 150 times per minute.
Its semi-retractable claws dig into the soil and its flowing tail swings
like a rudder from side to side, allowing it to make turns so sharply angled
and sure that they can make a gazelle seem clumsy in comparison.
With penetrating yellow eyes set high on its head, black tear-lines on its
cheeks to shield those eyes from the sun, it stalks with stealth and grace,
camouflaged by its golden spotted coat against the sun-streaked tall grass.
At rest, it purrs, but it never roars – ever.
Photo by Mark Kaser
is the magnificent cheetah, the fastest animal on land, and one of the most
beautiful creatures in the animal kingdom. It is unique among the big
cats – a daylight hunter by sight, not scent, with its always visible claws,
and its long, thin, deep-chested body and raffish spotted tail. These
simply gorgeous animals, so admired for their speed and grace, are in
trouble. For a variety of reasons, their numbers are dwindling and
unable to reproduce fast enough, their ultimate survival in their native
ranges in Africa and Asia is problematic, at best.
Photo by Susan Lang
The situation is not hopeless, however. There are conservationists
working diligently every day to preserve the cheetah, one of which, the
Cheetah Conservation Fund, is supported directly by the exhibit through the
The Indianapolis Zoo has four cheetahs on exhibit. The two females, littermates,
were born on June 25, 2007, at the Cincinnati Zoo. Two males, also littermates,
came from the Columbus Zoo. Born on September 29, 2000, these two
former program animals are named Kuzo and Kago. The makeup of the cheetahs
in the Indianapolis Zoo’s collection ultimately is dictated by the
Survival Plan®, a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that
manages the captive breeding of threatened and endangered species.
Also on exhibit near the cheetahs are Bat-eared Foxes presented by
Horton, Inc., Yellow
and Guinea Fowl.
30 inches at the shoulder
110 to 140 pounds
10 to 20 years
90 to 95 days
Eagles, humans, hyenas, lions
Protection status: Vulnerable
Cheetah Facts: Female cheetahs typically have a
litter of three cubs and live with them for one and a half to two years.
Young cubs spend their first year learning from their mother and practicing
hunting techniques with playful games. Male cheetahs live alone or in small
groups, often with their littermates. Cheetahs need only drink once every
three to four days.