August 4, 2013

Fast company at Parc Safari

HEMMINGFORD — The fastest land mammal in the world has returned to Parc Safari in Hemmingford.

The newest attractions are eight young cheetahs brought to the park from South Africa. Nathalie Santerre, the zoologist in charge of the predators at the park, said there are five males and three females.

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The males room together at night, she said, while the females have separate sleeping quarters. Dens will be created for when they are ready to give birth, Santerre said.

Markings differ

All of the males — Jua, Pendo, Haraka, Nyota and Kilio — are 1 year old. Two of the three females — Nati, Malkia and Laini — are also 1 year old, while the other is 2.

Nyota and Kilio are twins. They sauntered side by side as they made their way to the outdoor enclosure.

“Just by their behavior, we knew those two were the twins,” Santerre said.

The animals all have different facial and tail markings, which helps the keepers keep track of which is which. Cheetahs have evolved to be very aerodynamic, which helps them run at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. 

“Everything is designed for a long stride,” Santerre said, adding that can be up to eight meters.

Their long tails are not completely round, but flattened a little. That helps them make sharp turns at high speed, Santerre said.

Semi-retractable claws leave them ready to sprint at any time. Their small head also helps lower wind resistance.

The cats also have an extremely flexible spine and a highly developed respiratory system.

There are even black tear markings under the eyes, which help reduce glare similar to the eye black used by athletes.

Make purring sound

The cheetahs don’t growl, Santerre said. They purr and also make a chirping sound, much like a small bird.

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