FAST CATS – Annie is one of two cheetahs who are visiting Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail until the end of summer as part of a conservation and education program by Run Cheetah Run. The organization aims to educate the public on the threat of extinction currently facing cheetahs in Africa.

Cheetahs settling in at Central Alberta zoo

Run Cheetah Run officials hoping to educate about conservation

  • Jul. 2, 2014 4:13 p.m.

For the first time in over 25 years, cheetahs have once again graced Albertan soil.

Two of the fastest cats in the world – Annie and Robin have made Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail their home.

The cats can be seen purring and playing alongside one another in their enclosure at the Park until the end of August.

Owner of Discovery Wildlife Park Doug Bos said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to have the pair visiting his zoo, stating how he hadn’t seen cheetahs at an Alberta zoo since the likes of Al Oeming – of the world-renowned Alberta Game Farm near Edmonton – who toured the country from coast to coast with his cheetah until his passing at the age of 88.

Oeming and his cheetah Tawana went to schools and malls across the country promoting the conservation of the animal.

“The only other zoos in Canada with cheetahs right now is one in Vancouver and one in Ontario,” said Bos. “So for people who don’t plan to travel to those locations, this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to see cheetahs.”

The pair of cheetahs visiting Bos’ park came from South Africa early last year to current owners Carol Plato and Earl Pfeifer who head Run Cheetah Run, an education and conservation initiative whose primary goal is to inform the public of the grave situation facing endangered cheetahs in Africa as they near extinction.

Plato explained that while hundreds of thousands of cheetahs were believed to be in existence in the early 1900s, sadly this is no longer the case.

She stated that experts believe there to only be between 5,000 and 15,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild in Africa, with numbers plummeting by the thousands each year.

“Cheetahs are disappearing at a rapid rate due to their habitats being destroyed and human interaction in general,” said Plato.

Plato and Pfeifer brought the cats from a location in Ontario on their cross-country trek to educate people and to bring awareness to the work that many people are doing in Kenya and Namibia to preserve the quality of life and the quantity of cheetahs existing in the wild.

“Cheetahs are really an animal which are racing against extinction, so our hope is to race funds for Action For Cheetahs in Kenya,” said Plato. “Aside from the conservation work being done in Namibia where they are actually turning cheetah numbers around, everywhere else the numbers are plummeting so this group hopes to do the same thing in Kenya.”

The Action for Cheetahs in Kenya (ACK) explains on their web site that their mission is, “To promote the conservation of cheetahs through research, awareness and community participation in Kenya.”

ACK works closely with local wildlife authorities and landholders to develop policies and programs, which support wildlife conservation and human livelihoods for the long-term development of sustainable human and wildlife zones.

“This is such a great opportunity for us to be here at Discovery Wildlife Park because without other cheetahs in the province and near by, people might not know about the seriousness of the situation facing cheetahs in Africa,” said Plato. “So to be able to have the chance to talk to the visitors and tell them about the work being done is a huge honour and really goes a long way in spreading the message.

“The loss of cheetahs is escalating very rapidly, and unless we do something to intervene, these animals won’t survive and they will go extinct.”

Plato and Pfeifer hope to continue their cross-country journey to the west after the summer and continue to educate people on the situation facing these beautiful creatures.

For more information on the work being done by Plato and Pfeifer, visit https://www.facebook.com/runcheetahrunCAN.

jswan@reddeerexpress.com

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