The Indianapolis Zoo has a new exhibit opening this week thanks in part to NASCAR owner/driver Tony Stewart. Tony helped pay for the $2 million exhibit when his foundation donated $180,000 to the zoo for a cheetah exhibit. Major donations were also made by Polly Hix and Tony Fair, who have both helped fund previous zoo exhibits. Beginning Saturday May 29, 2010, the Indianapolis Zoo will be home to one of the larger cheetah exhibit in the United States.
The Indianapolis Zoo cheetah exhibit will house 3 female and 2 male cheetahs that arrived from Ohio in December. The three females – Jira, Chiku, and Rukia were born June 25, 2007 and were from the Cincinnati Zoo. The two males – Kuzo and Kago were born September 29, 2009 and were from the Columbus Zoo.
The exhibit is 20,000 square feet which is bigger than most of the other 53 cheetah collections within the United States. It is designed to allow visitors to see two distinct areas filled with trees and rock outcroppings while giving the cheetahs a feeling of ease and security. Visitors will see the cheetahs through a large window with panoramic views from both sides of a pedestrian bridge which separates the males from the females. There is also an interactive game where a person can actually pay 50 cents to race a cheetah. The exhibit allows a person to test their speed against the cheetah, known to be the fastest animal on earth. They are able to run 70 mph and can stop or turn on a dime to catch their prey. This money will go for the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
Cheetahs are slowly becoming extinct. There are around 10,000 cheetahs in the world and most are found in Africa. There were 100,000 just a few years ago. They are mammals that eat a carnivorous diet and will only need to drink once in three or four days. They have a fairly short life span in the wild with most only living 10-12 years. They usually are 3.5-4.5 feet tall and weigh75-140 pounds.
The cheetahs will have four caretakers at the zoo who will feed them a strict diet and will have some interaction with them in the enclosed area. The males seem to be much more human friendly than the females are. However, the handlers know that the cheetahs require respect.
The exhibition will remain in Indianapolis for awhile although I do not know if there is a specific time or not. I would recommend that you make a trip to the zoo this summer if you are interested in seeing the exhibit. I am sure that you will feel that you have actually stepped into Africa and that you are experiencing a viewing of these cheetahs in the wild.