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Perhaps researching cheetahs' hunting
habitats beforehand was not the smartest
idea -- as they walked closer, I recalled the
fact that the cheetah likes to get as close to
its prey as possible, then in a burst of speed it
tries to outrun its quarry.
Despite all my fears, with a noble swagger,
Shasa and Robi walked over to greet us with
more elegance than I would have expected.
Shasa immediately clues on to what's
going on and abruptly flops to the ground
awaiting my shaky hands.
e keeper informs me that Shasa loves
the experience and if
given the opportunity,
would be happy to
sit for hours and be
I am instructed to stroke under the chin,
all the while thinking that I am very close
to the business end of the African cat who
is the only breed that cannot retract its
claws -- a handy adaptation to help maintain
Her fur was beautiful, if slightly rougher
than a house cat's. Vibrations began to
surface from her ribcage, and she was soon
Encouraged, I patted her on the side
of the face and under the chin as if I were
sitting on the lounge at home with my
pampered apartment cat.
Cheetahs do not roar like lions, but they
purr, hiss, whine and growl. ey also make a
variety of contact calls; the most common is
a bird-like chirping sound.
Robi soon decided that she too would like
a little bit of loving, and released the chirp to
announce her presence.
ere I was crouching next to, and
observing with a ner vous shake, one of the
world's most majestic animals.
Sprawled across the shady lawns, there is
no ambiguity in their design. Built for speed,
they have long, slim, muscular legs, a small,
rounded head set on a long neck, a flexible
spine, a deep chest and a long tail for balance
-- a perfect recipe
to rule the African
ere are four
cheetahs at the National Zoo and Aquarium,
all of which have come from De Wildt
Cheetah and Wildlife Centre in Pretoria,
ree of which, Robi, Shasa and Tanzi,
are aged at about seven years and have held
residence at the zoo since 2003. November is
the youngest, at four-and-a-half.
Each 'Meet a Cheetah' experience lasts
for 15 minutes -- and when these minutes
are spent in an enclosure with unrestrained
cheetahs, seconds tick past as fast as a
cheetah's top speed. Reluctantly, I emerge
from the enclosure unscathed and feeling a
Go on, if you are game, it's an experience
hard to surpass.
MAJESTIC: Getting up-close with one of the
PURRRE HAPPINESS: Purring with complete contentment.
I knew a simple 'here kitty
kitty' would go astray.
National Zoo and Aquarium
-- Meet a Cheetah
Where: Lady Denman Drive,
When: Daily, between 2-3pm. Extra
sessions during peak times. Places
are strictly limited and bookings
essential. Arrive at least 30 minutes
prior to encounter start time
Cost: $150 per person. Maximum
of two people per encounter.
Participants need not pay for Zoo
entry on the day of encounter
Phone: 6287 8400
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