Visitors Can Now See Spotted Pair in Cheetah Yard
A couple of spotted siblings are surveying their new home at Denver Zoo. Cheetah brothers Marvin and Mojo just arrived from The Wilds, a wildlife conservation center near Zanesville, Ohio. Nearly full grown, they were born at The Wilds in October 2010. Visitors can see the pair prowling their yard now.
Denver Zoo’s last cheetah, an eight-year-old male named Barafu, was sent to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia as part of an Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding recommendation. Zoos participate in SSPs to ensure healthy populations and genetic diversity among animals. Marvin and Mojo came to Denver Zoo because of an SSP recommendation as well. In this case it was to provide space for two males who aren’t currently recommended to breed.
African cheetahs are found in the drier regions of sub-Saharan Africa with the largest population in Namibia. They reside in dry temperate grasslands, savannahs and woodlands. These unique cats are about the same size as leopards but much thinner. Their fur is covered with round spots rather than rosettes, like the leopard. In fact, the word “cheetah” means “spotted one” in Hindi. They also have distinctive black “tear drop” markings on their face that may protect their eyes from sun glare.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals. They can run up to 70 miles per hour over short distances and use their long tails like a rudder to help navigate at high speeds. They live and hunt in the same general area as lions and leopards but unlike these larger cats, cheetahs rely on speed not strength to capture prey. Because of their smaller size, though cheetahs often lose their kills to other predators and also have difficulty protecting their cubs from predators.
African cheetahs are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. Experts believe there are only about 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild. Their numbers are rapidly declining due to habitat destruction or conversion to farmland, elimination of prey species and direct persecution. Although there are laws against hunting cheetahs, they are still illegally poached for their beautiful fur.