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Cheetah Science Facility

In October 2007, the National Zoo opened the new Cheetah Science Facility at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. It is the first new research facility to be constructed on the property in 22 years.

This nine-acre Cheetah Science Facility will be the center of the Zoo’s international cheetah research program in which scientists study cheetah biology to ensure good health, reproduction, and self-sustaining populations in zoos and in the wild.

The facility will house 14 to 20 cheetahs in spacious, outdoor enclosures, with indoor spaces for inclement weather. The facility also will include an animal-care building to house animal keepers and researchers and allow them to observe, manage, and care for the animals.

The Zoo has been a leader in cheetah conservation efforts both in Africa and in North American zoos for the last 30 years. Currently, Zoo reproductive scientists are developing sperm and embryo technologies to transfer cheetah genetic material between cats in Africa and North America, techniques that someday could be useful for moving genes between isolated wild populations.

In addition, the new facility will allow more collaboration between scientists in the United States and Namibia. National Zoo veterinarians are testing new anesthetic and veterinary protocols to help local biologists in Namibia more safely and effectively study the animals in the wild. The new facility also will be used as a hub for training African biologists, helping to create the next generation of conservationists ready to serve and protect Africa’s unique biodiversity.

In November 2004, for the first time in the Zoo’s history, a litter of cubs was born. Another litter was born the following April. These nine cubs, which have left for other zoos, are the result of the Zoo’s participation in the Cheetah Species Survival Plan.

The current residents of the facility are Zazi, a female that had been at the Zoo since 2004 and had a litter in 2005, and Ally, a female that arrived from Oregon's Wild Safari in 2008.

The Cheetah Science Facility will create an ideal environment for breeding, as well as improved social opportunities for mothers to raise their young. This new facility will be the Zoo’s cheetah home base for research in animal care, reproduction, endocrinology, behavior, nutrition and genetics. It also will provide a training program for selected post doctoral fellows, graduate students and interns, as well as animal keepers and caregivers.