For Release: May 16, 2007
Pamela Baker-Masson (202) 633-3084
John Gibbons (202) 633-3083
Cheetah Science Facility Groundbreaking in Virginia
Recently the Smithsonian’s National Zoo broke ground in Front Royal, Va., for its new Cheetah Science Facility at the Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center. It is the first construction to take place on the property in 25 years and is made possible by Bill McClure, a long-time friend of the National Zoo.
The nine-acre Cheetah Science Facility, which will be completed this fall, will house 14 to 20 cheetahs in spacious, outdoor enclosures, with indoor spaces for inclement weather. The facility also will include an 800-square-foot animal-care building to house animal keepers and researchers and allow them to observe, manage and care for the animals.
The National Zoo has been a leader in cheetah conservation efforts both in Africa and in North American zoos. 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 are the result of the Zoo’s participation in the Cheetah Species Survival Plan. However, research has shown that cheetahs living in zoos often have significant challenges in breeding.
The new 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. The facility will be completed this fall.
“This is a wonderful way to celebrate our contributions and successes in the 25 years that we have dedicated to conserving this amazing animal.” said David Wildt, head of the Zoo’s Center for Species Survival program, “I know that the new Cheetah Science Facility will advance our research findings and offer yet more opportunities to share with the public the need to conserve African wildlife.”
The cheetah, the world’s fastest land mammal, faces a questionable future in nature. Cheetahs in zoos are a research resource and provide a safeguard against extinction of their wild counterparts. Additionally, this species in zoos provides wonderful opportunities to educate the public and to raise awareness about the need to protect all of Africa’s wildlife.
The 3,200-acre Conservation and Research Center is an unique asset of the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Front Royal, Va. The CRC houses between 30 and 40 species (half of which are considered officially endangered) and is regarded as one of the world’s leading conservation biology research facilities. National Zoo scientists work in the exhibits and behind the scenes at the Zoo, the CRC in Virginia and in field sites around the world.
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