Katavi the Cheetah
Doesn't she look elegant?
The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is an atypical member of the cat family (Felidae): that is, unique in its speed, while lacking climbing abilities. Therefore it is placed in its own genus, Acinonyx.
It is the fastest land animal, reaching speeds of 70-75 mph in short bursts covering distances up to 460m, and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 68 mph in three seconds, faster than most supercars.
The word "cheetah" is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning "variegated body." Cheetah cubs have a high mortality rate due to genetic factors and predation by carnivores in competition with the cheetah, such as the lion and hyena. Recent inbreeding causes cheetahs to share very similar genetic profiles. This has led to poor sperm, birth defects, cramped teeth, curled tails, and bent limbs. Some biologists now believe that they are too inbred to flourish as a species.
Cheetahs are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of vulnerable species (African subspecies threatened, Asiatic subspecies in critical situation) as well as on the US Endangered Species Act. Approximately 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild in 25 African countries; Namibia has the most, with about 2,500. Another 50-60 critically endangered Asiatic Cheetahs are thought to remain in Iran.
There have been successful breeding programmes, including the use of in vitro fertilisation, in zoos around the world. Born in captivity at Colchester Zoo in June 2008, Katavi was removed from the enclosure a few hours later as her mother, Uria had removed her from her den and abandoned her. As a tiny cub, she required round the clock feeding and care, but made remarkable progress and is now strong and thriving. She is seen during her private playtime in the cheetah enclosure.
Very sadly, at just 18 months, Katavi was put to sleep on 10 Nov 2009 following a two-week illness.