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Athletic Annabelle: ABQ BioPark’s cheetah acts as local spokes-cat for the world’s fastest land animal

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Most people know that the cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal. They can run as fast as a car on the interstate—up to 70 mph. And they can reach that speed in just 3 seconds!

Annabelle may be fast, but the ABQ BioPark Zoo’s Southern African cheetah also likes to spend her time taking “cat naps” in the warm Albuquerque sun.

She came to the ABQ BioPark in 2004 by way of the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas, where she was born in 2002.

In the wild, these carnivores use their speed to prey on small antelope like springbok, steenbok, Thomson’s gazelle and duiker. Annabelle is a picky eater, but one of her favorite treats is rabbit. Although she’s far from domesticated, she is comfortable with BioPark zookeepers and will eat right from their hands (through a fence, of course).

So how do ABQ BioPark zookeepers make sure this athletic cat stays in shape? Well, like any cat, Annabelle likes to chase things. Sometimes they even run the fence with Annabelle to get her moving.

BioPark staff also try to keep Annabelle’s mind active using enrichment items. She may be picky when it comes to food, but when it comes to toys, it’s simple—she loves big boxes. Annabelle’s other enrichment items—such as a small box with feathers inside—also keep her moving, as she bats them around her habitat.

Our Actions Matter

There are fewer than 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild, making it Africa’s most endangered big cat. Among the factors responsible for their decline are a high mortality rate among cubs, loss of habitat and prey, human-wildlife conflict and the illegal pet trade.

What you can do:

  1. Sponsor Annabelle through the New Mexico BioPark Society.
  2. Support conservation organizations like the Cheetah Conservation Fund, which is working to save cheetahs.

Did you know?

  • Like football players, cheetahs keep the sun out of their eyes using black marks—in the cheetah’s case, black tear lines fall on either side of their nose. These lines keep the sunlight out of their eyes when they’re hunting.
  • Cheetahs have another thing in common with football players—their claws are semi non-retractable and function like football cleats to give the animal more traction while running.
  • Also helping them with speed are hard tire-like pads—most cats have soft paws, but a cheetah’s pads equip them to grip the ground efficiently while they run at top speeds.