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World's Cheetah Population In Danger

Busch Gardens Tampa was New York with a very special animal ambassador – a 13-week old cheetah cub named Kasi – and animal educator Christine Charlick, to discuss the threatened cheetah population, steps that are being taken to halt the decline of the world's fastest land mammal, and the new cheetah habitat at Busch Gardens Tampa.

Consider these facts about cheetahs:

  • In the past 125 years, the population of cheetahs has declined from more than an estimated 100,000 to less than 10,000 today.
  • Once far ranging it is all but extinct in Asia, and on the verge of extinction in Africa.
  • It is listed as the most endangered cat in Africa for the following reasons:

1. Loss of habitat and prey to commercial farming and development 2. Prosecution by farmers as vermin or livestock-killing 3. Poaching

Reasons for Hope:

  • Zoological organizations like Busch Gardens Tampa provide educational opportunities for guests to learn more about the plight of these magnificent animals, and to be inspired by seeing them up-close.
  • An innovative new habitat at Busch Gardens – Cheetah Run – gives guests the opportunity to get closer to cheetahs than ever before.
  • Busch Gardens is working to save big cats from extinction. The SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund (SWBGCF) has given more than $700,000 toward big cat projects.
  • Busch Gardens works with the Namibian based Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in supporting cheetah conservation research and education.
  • The CCF works among the cats and local people to educate with outreach programs that explain the economic and ecological value of the cats (ecotourism) and also provide conservation management programs (supplying local farmers with guard dogs to scare away predators such as the cheetahs).
  • This program has been extremely successful in reducing the number of cheetahs that are trapped and killed in Namibia.

What can people do to help?

  • Learn more about cheetahs and help spread the word. Visit www.cheetah.org for more information.
  • Participate in ecotourism and visit places like the Cheetah Conservation Fund's research facility in Namibia.
  • Be aware of your purchasing power, especially as it relates to beef. Find out where your beef comes from, and if it is from Africa, inquire if it is "habitat safe" beef. Africa is currently working on a certification for farmers that use practices safe for predators like the cheetah.
  • Support the SWBG Conservation Fund – every single penny goes towards conservation efforts worldwide. For more information, visit www.swbg-conservationfund.org

Ramping up the cuteness factor: traveling with Kasi is Mtani, a lab puppy that lives with the cub. When Kasi's mom could not care for him, Mtani was introduced to provide the social bond that male cheetah's need. The two will stay together for life.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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