December 4th is International Cheetah Day! Everyone loves a nice animal print to wear; it’s always in fashion. Cheetah print is a popular favorite, especially when visiting the Zoo.
A cheetah’s coat has almost 2,000 spots. Each spot pattern is specific to one cheetah, just like a human’s fingerprints are unique to each one of us. But a cheetah’s fur isn’t the only thing covered in black spots, so is their skin! The fur only grows black from the spots on their skin. So come on out with your own cheetah print and celebrate the Zoo’s very own cheetah, Steve, on this special day!
This past month, Steve turned 11 years old, which is about middle-aged for a typical captive cheetah. The longest life span recorded for a captive cheetah is 20 years. Our cheetah is unique in quite a different way: he is diabetic. Steve and his keepers have a very special relationship to ensure his best medical care. He receives insulin twice a day from keepers to help manage his diabetes, and he participates in voluntary blood draws from his tail to check on his blood and glucose levels.
You may have also notice him limping when he patrols his territory. As a cub, Steve injured his right leg and has had a limp ever since. Although Steve has faced and overcome many challenges, he still needs constant medical care which is provided by our vet staff to ensure his best life.
Cheetahs are considered a “big cat” species. This is due to the size of prey that they take down. Just like other big cat species, they use a large amount of strength and predatory skills to catch prey. However, unlike other big cats, cheetahs do not have retractable claws. Their claws are left out, like a dog’s. While hunting, cheetahs use their tails like rudders on a boat to help make quick turns with their extreme speed. These adaptations help keep a cheetah's balance when running up to 70 miles per hour. The cheetah’s predatory skills help keep the ecosystem in balance by killing the weak and old individuals while preventing overgrazing. Cheetahs make chirping sounds, purrs, and squeaks, which is unalike other bigger cat species, who roar. During your visit, you might be able to hear these sounds when riding the train by Steve’s enclosure in Africa Loop.