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Keywords:

  • cheetah;
  • enrichment;
  • lure;
  • speed

Abstract

The enrichment practice of the “cheetah run” is becoming increasingly popular within zoological institutions as a method to enrich captive cheetahs. A lure moving at speed represents an artificial prey item that the cursorial cheetah can pursue, therefore allowing it to perform an important hunting behavior within a captive setting. This study was conducted in order to highlight how employing different forms of this type of enrichment may influence its efficacy. This is important in relation to the future development of an optimum type of “cheetah run” enrichment which maximizes the potential beneficial effects and therefore positively impacts upon cheetah welfare in captivity. Video recordings were carried out at three separate institutions (Fota Wildlife Park, Ireland; Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, South Africa; Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia). Randomization tests were carried out to compare the highest speeds attained between males and females, trained and untrained cheetahs and also between the three institutions. Females and trained individuals reached significantly higher speeds compared with males and untrained individuals, respectively. The only significant difference between the three institutions was between the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre and the Cheetah Conservation Fund, where cheetahs at the Ann van Dyk center reached significantly higher speeds. The current study represents the first detailed study of any aspect of the “cheetah run” across multiple institutions. It also includes the first quantification of the speed of cheetahs in captivity in relation to differing enrichment practices. Zoo Biol. 32:490–496, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.