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Cheetah Conservation StationExhibit

8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
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Cheetah Conservation Station

The Cheetah Conservation Station is home to more than just cheetahs. Zebras, red river hogs, sitatunga and Abyssinian ground hornbills all reside here as well — along with some of the most threatened species in the world, including Dama gazelles and scimitar-horned oryx. Several animals at the Cheetah Conservation Station share space in mixed-species exhibits, providing the animals an opportunity to interact just as they would in their native habitats.

Scientists at the Zoo and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have been studying the behavior, breeding and health of many species at the Cheetah Conservation Station. At SCBI, biologists collect behavior and hormone data on cheetah populations to optimize breeding success. The Zoo’s reproductive physiologists pioneered artificial insemination techniques for the scimitar-horned oryx to ensure reproduction between valuable but behaviorally incompatible pairs. Like cheetahs and oryx, maned wolves and Dama gazelles participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. Staff at SCBI are working to understand reproductive behavior and physiology, parental behavior, infant behavior and development, nutrition, health and disease of these species.

The Zoo’s Gabon Biodiversity Program has been on the front lines of integrating conservation needs with development priorities to sustain biodiversity in Gabon and training the next generation of conservation practitioners. The Gamba Complex of Protected Areas in southwestern Gabon is rich in biodiversity, encompassing many habitat types and species of concern, including gorillas, forest elephants and sea turtles.

Cheetah Conservation Station keepers provide the animals with enrichment—enclosures, socialization, objects, sounds, smells and other stimuli—to enhance their well-being and give them an outlet to demonstrate their species-typical behaviors. An exhibit’s design is carefully and deliberately planned to provide physically and mentally stimulating toys, activities, and environments for the Zoo’s animals. Each enrichment is tailored to give an animal the opportunity to use its natural behaviors in novel and exciting ways. As with any enrichment activity, an animal can either choose to participate or not.

To encourage the animals to forage as they would in the wild, keepers scatter food throughout the exhibit or place it in various puzzle feeders in the yards. They receive numerous feedings in various locations to keep them moving throughout the day. For animals such as Dama gazelles and scimitar-horned oryx, keepers will place leaf-eater biscuits inside bobbin feeders. The animals must spin, turn and otherwise manipulate the feeder to make the treat fall out.

Several animals at the Cheetah Conservation Station share space in mixed-species exhibits, providing the animals an opportunity to interact just as they would in their native habitats. But even the animals that don’t share the same exhibit—such as the cheetahs and the zebras—can interact and socialize with each other. A zebra often gallops along the fence that separates the two species’ enclosures, and the cheetahs will run alongside. The interaction encourages natural behaviors—all from a safe distance.

In addition to environmental enrichment, many animals participate in training sessions. This social enrichment provides an animal with exercise and mental stimulation while reinforcing the relationship between an animal and his/her keeper. Cheetahs Justin and Bakari were trained to participate in blood draws, which enabled animal care staff to monitor their health.

Restrooms are located at the Visitor Center and Panda Plaza.

The American Bison exhibit is located across from Panda Plaza.

Asia Trail is located adjacent to Cheetah Conservation Station. Visitors can observe giant pandas, red pandas, Asian small-clawed otters, fishing cats, clouded leopards and sloth bears at this location. Each day around 1:15 p.m. keepers toss novel foods and enrichment items to the sloth bears (weather dependent).

A pair of Rüppell’s griffon vultures, a male named Tuck and a female named Natelie, are on exhibit in one of the enclosures in the Cheetah Conservation Station.

Two Abyssinian ground hornbills, named Karl and Karoline, share an exhibit with the lesser kudus.

The Cheetah Conservation Station is home to three male cheetahs: Justin (nicknamed “Gat”) was born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Hand-raised by keepers, Justin was named after 2012 Olympic medalist Justin Gatlin, who won the bronze medal in the men’s 100-meter sprint. Donnie and Copley, a coalition of two male cheetahs, came to the Smithsonian's National Zoo from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in December 2017.

A male Grevy’s zebras named Moyo lives at the Cheetah Conservation Station.

Three red river hogs — a male named Roscoe and two females named Bobbie and Tangerine — live at the Cheetah Conservation Station. They share an exhibit with a male sitatunga.

Four lesser kudus live at Cheetah Conservation Station: adult male Garrett, adult female Rogue, their son Machi (born March 2021), and adult female "Gal" (short for Galactus). The kudus share a habitat with the Abyssinian ground hornbills.

 A male sitatunga named Waylon lives in an exhibit at the Cheetah Conservation Station. Waylon shares his exhibit with three red river hogs.

Two male maned wolves named Mateo and Quito live at the Cheetah Conservation Station.