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Zoo's big cat speed stars ZOOM into action

MEDIA RELEASE

1 June 2006

Zoo’s big cat speed stars ZOOM into action

Young cheetah brothers Anubis and Osiris begin their official ambassador roles at Auckland Zoo this weekend with the launch of the ZOOM Cheetah Experience to the public.

The chance to meet and touch the fastest land animal on the planet, and feel the reverberations of that famous feline purr that keepers liken to the gentle idling of a V8 engine, is as much for their benefit as yours, says Auckland Zoo director, Glen Holland.

“These magnificent young cats, who turn one this Sunday, have been reared especially under the Cheetah Outreach Ambassador Training Programme to be advocates and ambassadors for their species. They’re therefore very social, and meeting people is a very positive and stimulating experience for them,” says Glen, who grew up with cheetah in his native South Africa.

It is an experience that’s also benefiting cheetah conservation internationally. Twenty per cent of the revenue from this ZOOM encounter will go directly to the non-profit Cape Town-based trust, Cheetah Outreach, which the zoo has already been supporting through its Conservation Fund. Cheetah Outreach was set up in 1997 to prevent the extinction of cheetah, and it works closely with De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Park – a cheetah haven and breeding centre where Anubis and Osiris were born.

At the beginning of last century there were 100,000 cheetah in Africa. Today, that figure has plummeted to between 10,000 and 12,000, and the cheetah is now Africa’s most endangered big cat – primarily due to loss of habitat to commercial farming and development.

It is farmers who are most often in conflict with cheetah, particularly in Namibia where over 90 per cent of cheetah are found on commercial livestock farmland. Education is a key objective, and the use of the Anatolian Shepherd dog is proving to be a successful way of reducing this animal-human conflict. The Anatolian Livestock Guarding Dog Project, led by the international organisation Cheetah Conservation Fund, is supported by Cheetah Outreach. These dogs, who are natural protectors, are trained to safely and effectively prevent livestock loss to predators. This keeps farmers happy, and in turn protects cheetah from being trapped and shot. Funds already raised by Auckland Zoo have helped with the rearing of guard dog “Kiwi”, and his placement with a farmer, and ongoing training and support.

Along with offering the ZOOM Cheetah Experience, future plans involve providing zoo visitors with the opportunity to see these speedsters in action, by showcasing them running in a designated area of the zoo. In the meantime, bookings are essential for the ZOOM Cheetah Experience, which is being offered daily. For details and prices phone (09) 360 4700 or visit www.aucklandzoo.co.nz

Race in and get spotted this Queen’s Birthday!

To mark the start of the ZOOM Cheetah Experience and celebrate Anubis and Osiris’s first birthday, this Sunday and Monday the zoo is offering free face painting for kids – so they can be their favourite feline!


ENDS

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