Cheetah Conservation Station Exhibit

8:00 am to 7:00 pm
  • cheetah sitting in the grass
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Cheetah Conservation Station

PLEASE NOTE: The cheetah viewing area at the Cheetah Conservation Station is temporarily closed for renovation.

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s 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 cheetah 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.

There are two restaurants that are open seasonally neat the Cheetah Conservation Station: the Panda Grill and the Panda Overlook. Check out the “Dining at the Zoo” section to view meal options.

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).

The Asia Trail Gift Shop, located in the Visitor Center, showcases an eclectic variety of merchandise ranging from plush animals, toys, games, and books to zoo-themed apparel, accessories, and household decorations from all over the globe. Find fair trade and earth-friendly creations here!

At 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, animal care staff introduce visitors to one of the Zoo’s Grevy’s zebras. Hear fun facts about these equines and learn how keepers care for them. To view a full list of demonstrations, check out the Daily Events calendar.

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

One Abyssinian ground hornbill, named Karl, shares an exhibit with a lesser kudu.

The Cheetah Conservation Station is home to two male cheetahs: Justin (nicknamed “Gat”) and Bakari. Both were 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. Bakari was raised by his mother.

Two male Grevy’s zebras named Gumu and Moyo, live at the Cheetah Conservation Station. Because they are sexually mature, only one zebra is on exhibit at a time. The Zoo keeps only male Grevy’s zebras which means no breeding—and no birth—takes place on site. This arrangement is part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Grevy’s zebras.

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.

One of the enclosures at the Cheetah Conservation Station exhibits three species. Four female Dama gazelles named Adara, Sayda, Fahima and Zafirah

A lesser kudu named Garrett shares an exhibit with two Abyssinian ground hornbills.


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

The Zoo has two female scimitar-horned oryx named Dakota and Emma Claire.  They share an enclosure at the Cheetah Conservation Station with four Dama gazelles and a pair of Rüppell’s griffon vultures,

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